Volunteer of the Month- Feb 2015: Hemma

feb volunteer of month- hemma


1. What is your background?

I am an Intern at East Grampians Health. My first year out as a full fledged doctor (fear me not, i promise i know how to use this  proctoscope). I graduated from post graduate medicine in Monash University. I also completed a degree in Biomedical Science in my undergraduate studies.

2. What inspired you to become a Water Well volunteer?

Primary health education is something that i am truly passionate about. Before i possessed the skills to probe and prod patients to attempt to put a label to their ailments, i used to partake in many opportunities that allowed me to educate the specific groups of people on topics ranging from basic hygiene skills to sexual health education. When i heard the presentation by Dr Linny about what Water Well Project persevered for, i knew that i had to volunteer for them as they stood for what i was passionate about - primary education on health and other issues for key population groups. I have enjoyed each and every one of the volunteer sessions. Not only do i get to interact with people from various backgrounds but i walk away learning so much more about the different worlds within Australia.

3. Please share one of your favourite Water Well sessions or moments.

There were so many.

From the mother who was so grateful for the support provided by the session that she teared up when she thanked me at the end to the quirky grandmother who insisted that I meet her grandson for dinner (*spoiler alert: i didn't*).

But, if I had to pick a session, it would be the session where we were discussing nutrition and behavioural management to mothers who were primarily from Iraq. I went to the venue a little earlier to prepare and had the opportunity to talk to one of the mothers - a widowed Iraqi woman with 3 young daughters who had decided to attempt a safe life here in Australia after her husband died from a stray bullet. As she recounted her life back in Iraq, she ended the story with tears in her eyes " Nobody wants to leave the house and their hometown where you had built your whole life and move to a strange country. I did it so that I can protect my daughters. I want to be a strong woman and great mother. Women are not given many opportunities in the village that I lived in. I don't want that to happen to my daughters. They are very brave. They are my everything. They are my life."

This moment will stay with me for a long time. The pain, the hope and the love that I heard in her voice put everything in perspective. I was not just educating them, I was giving them the skills and the knowledge that they would need to have a new beginning. it was a reminder of why I wanted to volunteer in Water Well Project in the first place.

4. What tips do you have for new volunteers?

Hmm...like yoda.

- Don't do the session because you HAVE to. Do the sessions because you are truly interested in the topic and want to do your best to help someone. It shows in your behavior and interaction with the participants when you do not want to be there and would rather be at Fitzroy having a soy kale quinoa latte (*i might have made that latte up*).

- Each person sitting and listening to you is trying to learn things that could be the norm for us, but is new information for them. So be patient and take as many ways and as much time to explain a certain concept to them. Trust me, they will appreciate the effort.

- Smile. They are not looking for a professional Powerpoint presentation with cued "ooo"s and "ahh"s. The participants want a friendly face to talk to , a kind person to patiently answer their questions and a caring nature to genuinely help. Remember, they are just as nervous as you are.That smile could put them in so much ease. (*remember your fresh mints*)