Volunteer experience brings new challenges

VOLUNTEER: Shaleeni Jayamani took her seven years of experience as a pharmacist to a hospital ship in Cameroon. Photo: Mercy Ships.
VOLUNTEER: Shaleeni Jayamani took her seven years of experience as a pharmacist to a hospital ship in Cameroon. Photo: Mercy Ships.

A three-month stint volunteering abroad in Africa has been a life-changing experience for one local pharmacist.

Working on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship in Cameroon, Shaleeni Jayamani was faced with unfamiliar challenges and found herself inspired by the stories of those around her.

She found many women suffering from Obsteric fistula, an internal injury caused by obstructed labour during childbirth – the stories of those living with this debilitating illness resonated with Shaleeni the most.

“I am a woman. I look at them and realise that the pain and anguish over all those years could have easily been mine to bear,” she explained.

“Some women have been leaking urine and faeces for up to 40 years and have lived shunned, rejected, in shame with no purpose and future.”

After the women receive fistula surgery they partake in a dress ceremony to commemorate the start of their new lives.

“Watching these women dressed up in beautiful garments, celebrating their new life, their freedom, their beauty once more… It’s better than a pay cheque,” Shaleeni said.

HOSPITAL SHIP: Shaleeni and the other pharmacists found ways to help out beyond their job descriptions. Photo: Mercy Ships.

HOSPITAL SHIP: Shaleeni and the other pharmacists found ways to help out beyond their job descriptions. Photo: Mercy Ships.

Growing up in “beautiful” Malaysia, Shaleeni’s parents worked hard to give her the opportunity to move to Australia to study pharmacy, and volunteering is always something that has been of interest.

Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations serve with Mercy Ships.

My close friends were not surprised that I was doing this as they know this has been a burden on my heart for a while now.

Shaleeni Jayamani

“My close friends were not surprised that I was doing this as they know this has been a burden on my heart for a while now,” she said.

“The truth is, anyone can do what I am doing. You just need to have willing hands and hearts.”

The compassionate pharmacist plans to study nursing next year in order to expand her skill-set and provide further help to others. 

“This I believe will give me the skills I need alongside my pharmacy knowledge to help care for people who are hurting and who are in need.”