By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
The April 4 Gainesville Lion’s Club meeting included a presentation by medical missionary Debbie Bollinger regarding her work with the people of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea lies just south of the equator and just north of Australia.
It is part of a mountain range that juts out from Asia through the South Pacific.
It consists of more than 600 islands and the indigenous people residing there speak over 800 dialects.
Bollinger, a native of Sidney, Australia, is on a three week visit to North Texas with friend and Gainesville Lion’s Club member Jacob Newman. Both are members of an organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
“We are able to bring medical assistance including vision, dental and general healthcare to the people who live on the islands of Papua New Guinea,” she said. “Over six million people live in this island country and many have never received any type of medical assistance.”
The YWAM program is entirely funded by donations and volunteer doctors and nurses on two week mission assignments.
They provide the medical expertise to treat those who do not have the capability to travel and get necessary help.
Since the native people do not have ways to get to medical services, the medical services come to them by way of a YWAM ship which transports goods and services to the desolate areas.
As part of the regular on board health care crew, Bollinger coordinates not only each volunteer temporary medical staff but makes sure that inventory and supplies are replenished as needed.
She also keeps track of what needs to be done at each location.
“The dental work and vision care is done on board the ship at each stop,” Bollinger continued. “We set up the general healthcare station in each village and the day is spent treating patients from each area. When our work is done there, we travel on to the next location.”
The living conditions the people of Papua New Guinea face are of a third world nature, she said.
One in seven women die in childbirth.
One in 13 children do not live past the age of five.
Malaria is another serious health concern for residents due to lack of prevention information and lack of mosquito nets.
Life expectancy on the island averages only about 49 years.
“We not only take care of their physical maladies but we also provide information to protect themselves from disease and infection,” Bollinger said.
In 2012, over 82,505 hours were donated by the medical staff and ship personnel to keep the program going.
The ship goes out during the months of April through November.
The remaining part of the year is spent on vessel maintenance, a very expensive part of the mission.
Those who give their time and talent to YWAN do not receive a salary.
“No one associated with YWAM receives compensation of any sort,” Bollinger explained. “We each are responsible for our own support and organizations such as the Lion’s Club and churches are primary sources of monetary assistance.”
When she returns to Australia, Bollinger will be based on Papua New Guinea instead of Sidney to be directly connected with her mission work.
“It is something I love to do at this point in my life,” she said. “When I look at the faces of the children I see their will to live and I just want to help.”