Last year, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to do some volunteer work with her. I half-heartedly agreed, thinking that it would be a nice thing to do, but WHEN WOULD I FIND THE TIME I’M VERY BUSY AND IMPORTANT BEING A JUNIOR DOCTOR. I’m saving lives here, there’s no time for ladling out soup to the homeless or reading to the elderly. But, I thought, it might make me a better person, which looks good on the old curriculum vitae. So, I confess, when I attended the induction my main motivation was to inject a little life into my rather dreary resumé. Sure, I want to save the world, but that seems like a pretty big commitment.
Walking into the induction night on Tuesday, I was promptly filled with anticipation, a sense of excitement I was not expecting. It was like the feeling you get when you suspect you’ve got a secret talent for something you’ve never tried, or when you discover that someone has brought a chocolate cake to work.
The room was filled with young health professionals, all with ambitious minds. They were all people who work full time, have a myriad other things they could be doing on a Tuesday night, but chose instead to listen to speakers talk about The Water Well Project.
"The Water Well Project". It sounds fresh, wholesome, and exciting, and it has nothing to do with digging wells or fetching water. It is a foundation that links with existing refugee groups and aims to deliver basic health education to refugees and migrants, sending volunteer doctors and health professionals to interact with refugee populations and help them gain a better understanding of concepts as basic as healthy eating, and also more complex problems like navigating the Australian health system.
Dr Linny Phuong is the Founder and Chair of the project, and the entire room was immersed in her passion and energy. Linny spoke about her parents’ journey from Vietnam to Australia and the hardships they faced seeking refuge in our country, and I see why Linny is so passionate about this project. I started to comprehend just a smidgen of how difficult it must be to be a refugee here, something I had never really given much thought to.
Mr Peter Spink told us about different resources that are available, which is reassuring because there is not enough room in my brain for all the problems refugees and migrants face. I am impressed to note that the Australian Government has been providing interpreters for the sessions, as I knew my mono-lingual intellect and improvised, incorrect sign language (uninterpretable flailing hand gestures) could only get me so far. Dr Mark Timlin told stories of his many years living and practicing in Afghanistan, which are simultaneously enthralling, inspiring, and terrifying.
The more the speakers told us about their experiences and what they had achieved by educating refugees, the more I wanted to be a part of it. They spoke with such enthusiasm that it was contagious, and I want to experience those same warm, fuzzy feelings you get - only from helping another human being.
So, my reasons for participating in The Water Well Project have changed. I'm still doing it for selfish reasons, only now I want to do it for the gratification, for the warm fuzzies, and not for my resumé.