Angelica in Africa!?

During our Leadership Training School we were encouraged to set time aside to analyse, think and pray things through. To properly plan all (as much as we could) the details of our projects. And of course hold the plans loosely as things always change. But plan nonetheless, plan! As failure to plan is a sure indicator of permanent failure!

Part of my planing (for the School of TB) included gathering as much information as possible regarding different like-minded schools. To get very familiar with the WHO DOTS program (a TB course for health providers), gain understanding of the village health volunteer program in PNG, and, learn as much as possible from YWAM’s School of Malaria (SoM).

The SoM is a very specific school that empowers students to recognize, diagnose, treat and prevent Malaria. Like a possible future School of Tuberculosis (SoTB), this school would be very narrow in it’s scope of practice, in the students it attracts, in who can teach and lead the school as well as their actual scope of practice in the field. For all those reasons, I decided that I definitely should learn from the SoM! Their pioneering efforts, their successes, challenges, limitations and so forth.

I researched on our international database and found two locations that had previously offered the SoM. One in Brazil and one in Africa. I contacted friends in the Healthcare Faculty and received 2 email addresses, with the preface… “it might not be very helpful, none of them speak English!”

No worries, I thought, I do know a few more languages… I sent out a bilingual email and received an answer in French from Sandra, a Brazilian lady leading the school in Senegal.

She explained the school really well, I was satisfied with all her answers and the curriculum she sent me. She was actually helpful to equip me to pioneer the school here in Townsville, if I so desired. So I explained my ulterior motives for asking… I told her about my desire to pioneer a SoTB… She instantly loved the idea, expressed that such a school would also be a need in Africa. And she then invited me to join them on outreach, which was happening a month from then.

I played with the idea for half a second… long enough to say how cool would that be..!? And pretty much instantly I thought “No way! This isn’t happening, it’s Africa, crazy far away, way too expensive, I’m way too busy, I won’t get time off, I’d much rather have a holiday…” What I then called facts and reason, I can now clearly call unbelief.

For 2 weeks I tried to politely decline the invitation. I would have sat down at my computer or taken my phone to reply at least 5 times and never managed to find the peace to decline. Last week on Monday I decided I had enough! I was going to answer once and for all! “It’s not honouring to keep avoiding the issue, just reply and politely decline, Sandra needs an answer, it’s been two weeks!” I sat down at my desk and started typing away… 15 minutes flew by. I couldn’t do it! I turned to my oversight, and explained the situation… She told me to stop being stupid, and to pray about it. Such wisdom!

Later that day I knew I should go to Africa! To be honest, deep down I knew all along, but was afraid of the consequences! We talked things through, my sense of faith for it, and I filled out my leave request. Two days later, my leave was approved, I then booked my ticket and saw the travel doctor! Three vaccines later (including the Yellow Fever one) I am now ready-ish to fly to Africa!

I usually don’t do this, but I am still needing to see ~$3000 to cover my upcoming credit card bill! This is really unexpected and much more expensive than my usual living cost, if you have it on your heart to partner with me on this journey, you can donate here.

School of Tuberculosis: Eradicating TB one Village at a Time

During the course of our Leadership Training School (LTS) we had the privilege to learn for the founding fathers of our mission. Learn and glean from their life experiences. It’s been amazing and challenging! Challenging to face the reality that it takes time, years even, to see dreams come to past.

But I’m a bit determined & perseverant, my dad calls me stubborn, but I like to believe that nothing is impossible if you’re willing to put in the hard yards.

Being a visionary is awesome! I always have dreams and ideas of things that could be. LTS helped me focus, hone in and go after those dreams.

The biggest cause of failure is to fail to set a good goal. You could be heading in a good direction, but how would you know that’s you’ve arrived at your destination unless you’ve set a goal? It’s better to achieve 80% of a good goal, rather than 100% of nothing by doing exactly nothing.

So I dream boldly and my goal is to Reduce the prevalence rate of Tuberculosis (TB) by 25% in 50 remote communities (in mountain ranges and isolated rivers, inaccessible by road or day trip with patrol tender from the Medical Ship) of the Southern Region of PNG by 2020.

This is exactly what I wrote for my project, however, the timeframe is a little skewed as I won’t be starting my project right away…

In order to decide how to reach our goal, we had to list objectives (things we want to see happen or limitations to work with) and then dream up four scenarios of how to best get to the goal. Once the scenarios are detailed, we measure them up with our list of objectives and come up with the best option and that’s our project. Then we plan it all out, step by step, all the details, steps involved, personnel required, resources and finances…

I chose to pioneer a school for Tuberculosis. A school designed to address the need in remote villages and work together with local health centres to increase their reach and diagnosis capacities. I dream to empower the students to do health promotion and education to increase the awareness of TB. Change the fatalistic mindsets and bring hope!

One of my favourite TB advocate/public health figure, Dr. Paul Farmer once said:

“In the history of humankind, tuberculosis (TB) has killed more people than any other disease. TB remains one of the top 10 causes of deaths in the world and competes with HIV/AIDS as the biggest killer amongst all infectious diseases. One of the overarching problems with TB is how difficult it can be to find and properly diagnose the people who are infected with active TB. As a result, approximately 3 million people who are not aware that they have active tuberculosis and are unwittingly infecting, on average, 15 to 20 more people beyond themselves. You can picture the exponential spread of the disease and recognize how frighteningly quickly those numbers add up: 1.4 million people will die from the disease this year, two to three people every minute, nearly 4000 every day. Yet most people know almost nothing of TB and likely think that it is no longer a public health challenge.”

If only people knew!

I dream of a world without TB… and my part starts in PNG, then who knows… Cambodia? India? Africa? YWAM is beautifully international and the school could be run anywhere!

TB of Spine – Eiwo

What’s for Dinner!?

I love to cook! And I love weekends because I usually get enough time to be a little more elaborate with my cooking…

Since starting with YWAM, I’ve had to cut some of the ingredients on the list. I simply can’t justify buying rare spices, fresh herbs, fancy vinegars or aromatic oils to enhance taste. I actually hold on to every random piece of food in my fridge or left overs to see how I can turn them into a better meal.

I downloaded an application that allows you to search for recipes to use specific ingredients. Over the weekend, I’ve ended up with 8 egg yolks. And no idea how to cook them in a yummy way… there’s only so many you can put in an omelette before it goes yuck! In search for a better idea, I pulled my phone and found a 7 yolks recipe for fresh pasta. Now spaghetti would have been good! But I don’t exactly have a pasta machine! So My right sided brain started to spin… “How about ravioli!? I have a rolling pin!” So I searched for ravioli filling and found one I conveniently had all the ingredients for! Quick homemade tomato sauce was easy and the whole idea seemed to make sense. After all we only needed to buy all purpose flour to feed everyone! I even put a loaf of bread in the bread maker, and dinner was sorted!

Haha! Ok it might have taken a while… a long while (3hrs) to make the pasta from start to finish, but it was so good, not one egg yolk was wasted, my housemates were blessed and I had a great time this afternoon! Enjoy the photos, I wish I could have shared this meal with you!

Personal Conviction

I love working in PNG! Whether it’d be with the Ship or on a land based outreach, I enjoy wearing the casual “Ship Shirt/Lava Lava”-dress! When my time on the Ship was almost over, it dawned on me that I would possibly need to dress up a fair bit when I got to Townsville, depending on the office that I would end up working in.

When I found out that my new office didn’t have a dress standard, I was quite relieved that I din’t have to go shopping and wore the casual shorts and t-shirt for the first two days. Then I started to feel really awkward and felt like my attitude wasn’t right. After reflecting on it later that night, I was reminded of my time in the military…

By the time I had been in the Force for 6 years, I had stopped to care about “the 4 D’s” (Dress, Drive, Drill, Discipline). I no longer inspected my uniform to ensure all treads were burnt, I would barely make sure my head dress was half decent, waxed my boots one time out of five and was never early, quite often late actually! I had gotten to a place where, I no longer cared. My attitude was pretty much “What are they going to do!? Kick me out?… Good riddance!” And that’s crazy, because I used to love my job in the military. Two years later, I was putting in my release.

How is it connected!? That following weekend, I went shopping… (Opp Shop! I love secondhand stores, they’re the best, Thanks Jade ;) I found proper and corporate skirts & tops to ensure a professional appearance in the office. The way I dress highly influences the way I think and carry myself. I love what I do, and i’m not about to let my guard down on “the 4 D’s”, I’ve made that mistake once. I will uphold my own personal standard and sustain this love and passion for my work here with YWAM.

You need me to create what!?

“A CSV File”

I can only laugh at how much I’ve learnt, and how I can’t say that I’m technology challenged anymore! Which is crazy because there are still so many things I cannot do, but I now have a list of things I can do!

Two weeks ago, I started learning about mapping, more specifically creating maps! We were privileged to have a Cartographer (or 4K Mapping expert) from Kona, Hawaii come teach a few of us how to make maps that really show what we want. To create an easy visual representation of our work in Papua New Guinea and around the Pacific.

As 4K Mapping’s Vision Statement puts it: “To see the world and respond to its needs, to see where we are and where we are not, and to reach the all and every.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 5.13.57 PMDuring the Mapping seminar, we’ve learnt to use ArcGIS online to create our own maps, keeping track of where we’ve been with the Medical Ship as well as on outreach during the Introduction to Primary Health Care course.

On this first map, All the villages of the Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea are represented by a blue dot. The red dots are the villages we’ve been able to reach over the last 4 years. There are still so many unreached people in the Gulf, it’s really easy to see that we need to continue to reach out, involve more people and getting a bigger ship totally makes sense if our goal is to reach everyone and help Papua New Guinea deliver better health care.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 5.00.54 PM

The following maps were made from the information collected during last year’s Introduction to Primary Health Care School Outreach. In every village visited,  a survey was conducted to learn about the needs of the community, including the types of medical aid available in the surroundings. This map represents the different types of medical facilities, and the presence of a red dot indicates that the facility is staffed. As seen on this map, 4 Aid/Post are currently unstaffed, creating a gap in the health services available.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 5.02.14 PM

With this software, we can also made every point say something. On this map, I’ve illustrated the size of the villages with the red dots increasing in size proportionally with the  population. As well as showing the amount of water tanks with blue disks. When hovering over the different points on the map, tables like this one reveal the information found in the CSV files used to create the points on the map.

It’s so exciting to think about everything we can create and show on maps like these, but the most amazing thing is that we can now map 17 years worth of data that we’ve had sitting in excel files

Total Human NeedsOh and I nearly forgot! This next map (added a few days later, sorry if you’ve missed it the first time you read through) is a map of “Human Need” per Omega Zone. It was created by 4K but is an amazing example of what could be done with more practice and the necessary data.
Total Human Needs by 4K

Going Crazy in the Tropics!

Today I was sitting down at my kitchen table and trying to write my newsletter. At one point I got really itchy, and realized I had three mosquito bites on my legs. I’m allergic to mosquitoes, I really don’t like them biting me and I don’t want to get Dengue Fever… Fine it’s Queensland, it happens, I put Aloe Vera on them and thought “I’ll be fine”. Went back and sat in the same spot. Next minute, I have 10 bites on my legs, and I can see a fat mosquito under the table. ”That’s it, it’s war!” I dived under the table and tried to find it… no sight of this mosquito! So I decided to sit underneath the table and occupy this space. It might be worth it, this way at least I might not get bitten :)

Can you believe there’s more mosquitoes here in Townsville than in Papua New Guinea!!!???

Success! It’s been 20 minutes, and still no sight of this mosquito, I’m totally winning this :)

Would You Like to Stay for Tea?

I was looking forward to connect with locals and have friends outside of YWAM.
To ensure a family feel, or to have a variety of different friend circles… being rooted and not feel isolated in the massive sea of people that circulate through here. Last Sunday I was blessed to meet 5 amazing people from the local community and spend the day with them. We had an amazing time and got to hear great stories :) Went for Fish & Chips, watched a movie, typical Aussie day… Then I was invited to stay for tea… (So far I had had morning and afternoon tea… they’re like snacks.)

“Would you like to stay for tea… we’re having spaghetti..!?”
“Oh no thanks, I’m good”
(Thinking what kind of crazy people snack on spaghetti right before dinner!?)

Then they ask a friend they had also invited… another YWAMer… “Would you like to stay for dinner… we’re having Spaghetti!?” OH MY! How rude of me to turn down dinner… :s They asked again, this time calling it by it’s “american name”.

“Would you like to Stay for DINNER!?”
“I’d be delighted to!” :)

Thankfully my faux-pas wasn’t held against me and I have made good friends with these strange people who have spaghetti for tea :)

Quite the Journey!

Quite the journey indeed! Where to start!?

I returned home in September 2012, after having spent 5 1/2 months with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Townsville and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Over the 3 1/2 months that I spent in PNG in different villages and with the medical ship, I have seen and had the privilege to do so many things! I had the opportunity to connect with amazing people throughout, whether it’d be a strong local women harvesting Sago (tropical starch for palm stem) or a local health worker. I had the opportunity to serve alongside PNG nationals in clinics and was amazed at how much we learned from each other. I myself gained a great deal of knowledge in tropical medicine from the local nurses, which enabled me to better care for my patients. It was these and similar experiences that confirmed to me I wanted to be involved more with the medical ship and help bring life to PNG.


“I Want to Live” is the motto for YWAM Medical Ships, one that echoes the hearts of people in PNG … and from within all of us.

So what did that mean for me? 
Releasing from the military, renewing my passport and visa. It also meant meeting with family and friends to share my passion and plan to work with YWAM, as well as raising support. If you knew me to be quite laid back and saw me in my last weeks prior to departure you might have sensed a little (or a lot) of stress.. here’s a little insight as to some of the things I was challenged with.

I was blessed with the quickest release from the military I’ve ever heard of (less than 3 months total) but unfortunately it was a day late for the Australian Immigration to look at it prior to the Holiday break… Meaning that it was put off to January 7th. I was scheduled to leave on the 13th.

On the 7th, they looked at my whole file and found a problem with my health exam (a blurry shadow over my right lung) and required I’d go for a 2nd chest x-ray to rule out lung pathology (they were thinking tuberculosis due to my prior trip to PNG).  I called the clinic that day and got an appointment for the following day. But the results weren’t sent until two days later our 10th (Australia’s 11th; a Friday). My flight was scheduled for that Sunday and the only thing I had was a proof that they had received my 2nd x-ray and that I had met all “Health Requirements”. So I decided to leave as scheduled and pray for my visa to come through on time.

Couple highlights of my travels… how do you travel without a visa!?

I left Montreal without a valid visa for Australia, but was confident that I would receive it before I landed in Australia and had to face immigration… Fortunately enough, I received my visa before I landed in Los Angeles (first lay-over)! Also having to travel (on 5 different flights) with more luggage than I could carry (total of 5 bags; with an estimated worth of over $3600 in medical supplies for the ship)! Seeing $400 of fees for excess luggage dropped by luggage attendants/customer services personnels and the other half covered by a generous donation! (Thank you ;)

And last but not least… to get stopped at every single security check points for possession of suspicious equipment…


This is a picture of what an “X-Ray” screen of my bag would have looked like… I eventually got to a point where I would look at the security agent working the computer screen and know that my bag was being checked when his face would be suddenly distorted! “M’am what is in your bag!?….an OTO-WHAT!?” …”O-TO-SCOPE, Sir :), to look into people’s ears”. They all preferred to let me go through rather than to get their ears checked out..!

BTW…Medical professionals… I got this amazing stethoscope donated by an even more amazing friend, how awesome is she!? Looking forward to put it to good use in PNG!

I have arrived and had time to settle in a little. I have 5 amazing roommates, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with some of the friends I had made here last year, as well as to meet some awesome new people. It feels so good to finally be here, however I do miss spending time with all of you.

Thanks so much for reading, I’m glad you’re part of this journey :)


Change:Our Story…

For those of you who aren’t familiar with these images, they represent the main reason why I created this Blog. I believe that this is “Our Story” in missions. I truly cannot do my work here without your help. And since it’s our story, I value your time and want to keep you informed about my work here but not in an overwhelming and massively long e-mail..! So I thought that this Blog would allow you to read as much as you want, whenever you want :)