New Zealand Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia

New Zealand Defence Force personnel take part in medical mission in Indonesia

Corporal Amy Kelly cleans a patient's teeth during the five day medical mission in Indonesia. (US Navy photo)

Six New Zealand Defence Force personnel recently spent time in Indonesia, providing medical and health assistance as part of a five day mission with the United States Naval Hospital (USNS) MERCY for Pacific Partnership 2010.
The annual exercise travels the Pacific nations with more than a thousand military and civilian personnel from around the world, whose roles include equipment repairs, engineering, veterinary support and medical, dental and surgical support.

The New Zealand contingent was present for the Indonesian leg of the mission, making visits to the communities of Tobelo, Morotai, Ternate, Jailolo, and Ambon, undertaking dental tasks, surgical assessments, public health and education projects, including teaching at  local universities to Masters’ level students, and other community projects.
Lieutenant Commander Kerry Climo of the New Zealand defence force team, co-ordinated the Medical Operations Team, ensuring patients, staff, crew, and medical equipment got to and from the ship. She was able to take part in a community service project including a visit to Rumah Sejahtera Orphanage.
"It’s been a lifelong desire of mine to visit and serve at an orphanage,” said LT CDR Climo. “Working alongside each other is the key to success on a mission such as this. All boundaries disappear as soon as you realise it is not about you, it’s about the children you are serving.”
Another member of the team, pharmacist Major Paul Kendall, said the experience was humbling.

“It was eye-opening, humbling, and great to be part of something good for the people of South East Asia. It was an opportunity to learn from other people and mix with different professions, cultures, and nationalities.”

Operating Room and Recovery Nurse Captain Deborah Cromie, said it was rewarding to see children with cleft lips and palates recover after surgery - and see the lovely work performed by the plastic surgeons.

“This type of surgery makes a real difference to the lives of these children. The most memorable part of the deployment was meeting the people on the ship, from partner nations, NGO groups, interpreters to civilian contractors. Everyone had a different story about what they were doing on the USNS MERCY.”

Major James Josephs, an Environmental Health Officer, said the mission was very worthwhile.

“Discussions with fellow professionals showed that we can be confident in the NZ Army’s current knowledge and capability regarding environmental health. While we may not have all the technology used by much larger Armies, it was evident that kiwis can adapt quickly to it.”

Dental hygienist, Corporal Amy Kelly, said a highlight for her was seeing the transformation of a patient who had been living with a bilateral cleft lip and palate for 28 years.
“Seeing the change in this patient was amazing as he went from having a facial disfigurement to looking just like everyone else – he was so grateful! Treating kids at the schools was fun. They’d learned songs in English and practised them for months before we got there, welcoming us with singing and dancing. I’m very lucky to have been given the opportunity to be involved in such a humbling mission and to have served with some very giving people."

Story courtesy of the New Zealand Defence Force

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