A youthful adventure led to a career change and lifelong commitment to Papua New Guinea.
Margaret Evans had only just turned 18 when she met Palms returnees through the Paulian Association and was inspired by Palms Spiritual Director, Otto Shelly, to go to PNG to teach from 1969 to 1971. Working in Simbu, and Goroka provinces, Margie found it much easier to adjust to the basic conditions that she found there than to readjust to the Australian way of life when she returned.
During the first year of her placement she found that she was the only English-speaking female foreigner and so had to quickly master Pidgin, which she still speaks fluently today and even teaches. Margie was placed in a house with a local Papua New Guinean nurse and would often assist her on medical call-outs. It was then that a lifelong interest and career in nursing was born and grew.
After her placement, Margie trained as a midwife, then did a Public Health and Infection Prevention & Control course and in 2008 was invited back to PNG to help set up an Infection Control Program. She has since been visiting PNG twice a year to provide mentoring to local staff working in the program. The arrival of COVID 19 saw an increased need for her expertise however, due to travel restrictions, she now has to assist remotely via WhatsApp to help the Infection Control Offices in 5 PNG Provinces and the Ministry of Health in the Solomon Islands.
Margie says that in addition to sending her on a lifetime career in nursing, her experiences in PNG had a permanent impact on her values regarding the importance of community, pulling together to overcome hardship and shared rather than individual ownership. She learned not to judge others who appear different. She also recognises the value of human generosity and says that “what I have is a gift and other people are welcome to share that gift.”
If you would like to share the gifts of your own skills and expertise with an overseas community, as well as learn and grow from a cross-cultural experience, you can check out the current placement opportunities, on the Palms website and register your interest in applying. We are currently taking applications for placements in 2021 and beyond and will be offering a pre-placement Orientation Course from 9 to 17 January, 2021.
Feature image: Some of Margie’s mentees in PNG