Tuesday 5 December 2017: Port Augusta pharmacist Shaleeni Jayamani has returned home after a three-month stint volunteering on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship in Cameroon.
Miss Jayamani grew up in what she describes as “beautiful and diverse” Malaysia. Her parents worked hard to give her the opportunity to move to Australia to study Pharmacy.
With over seven years of experience working as a pharmacist, serving in the same role on board the Africa Mercy, the hospital ship operated by international medical charity Mercy Ships, still brought new challenges.
However, the encouraging environment created by her 400+ fellow volunteers was a support to Miss Jayamani.
“The skilled and gracious team helps you and guides you,” she said.
Of all the life-changing stories of hope and healing found on board the ship, it was those of the women affected by childbirth injuries that touched Miss Jayamani the most.
“I am a woman. I look at them and realise that the pain and anguish over all those years could have easily been mine to bear,” she recalled.
Obsteric fistula is an internal injury caused by obstructed labour during childbirth.
“Some women have been leaking urine and faeces for up to 40 years and have lived shunned, rejected, in shame with no purpose and future” Miss Jayamani says.
Each week there is a dress ceremony for the women who have received fistula surgery on board.
“Watching these women dressed up in beautiful garments, celebrating their new life, their freedom, their beauty once more… It’s better than a pay cheque.”
Miss Jayamani and the other pharmacists found ways to help out beyond their job descriptions.
“Not only do we serve and look after the patients we also serve our fellow crew in many ways” she says.
Volunteering has always been something of interested to Miss Jayamani.
“My close friends were not surprised that I was doing this as they know this has been a burden on my heart for a while now,” she says.
Miss Jayamani has also been an inspiration to others through her service.
“The truth is, anyone can do what I am doing,” she said. “You just need to have willing hands and hearts.”
Miss Jayamani plans on continuing her studies in nursing next year.
“This I believe will give me the skills I need alongside my pharmacy knowledge to help care for people who are hurting and who are in need.”
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, treating more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. The Africa Mercy is crewed by 400 volunteers from up to 40 nations, an average of 1000 each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. With offices in 16 nations, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information visit www.mercyshps.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia