My name is Jenny. I’m a Zimbabwean-born Australian currently travelling around the world, volunteering and working within my profession, physiotherapy.

I graduated in Perth in 2008, worked in the ‘Aussie Outback’ for 2 years and made my way back to Zimbabwe at the beginning of this year (2011) to volunteer in an HIV clinic in Harare. I spent 5 months at Newlands Clinic working with adults with HIV related neurological conditions and HIV positive children with chronic respiratory disorders.

 

I arrived in Zimbabwe with a very limited understanding of HIV, particularly in regard to rehabilitation and HIV. But a fantastic two week course run by the clinic brought me up to speed and gave me the knowledge and insight I needed to work with people living with the sinister virus.

It was an enriching time and a joy to be part of. Working with such willing and grateful people was humbling and the progress and outcomes from individual patients was inspiring. A gentleman who was wheelchair bound in December 2010 with no use of his arms is now carrying 5 litre buckets of water and kicking a soccer ball which he loves. A lady, blind and wheelchair bound, not wanting to continue with life discovered that she was able to do more than she realized. She is now walking around her home using the walls for support and has a renewed purpose and desire to live happy and optimistic while continuing with her antiretroviral therapy vigilantly.

During my time there, various programs were established including the national Zimbabwe Sustainable Clubfoot Program (non HIV related) aimed at implementing effective clubfoot management throughout the country, and the Newlands Clinic Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, a 6 week comprehensive exercise and education program for HIV positive children living with chronic respiratory disorders. The aim of this program is to improve the quality of life of these children by improving their exercise tolerance – essential as they all have to walk to school – and reducing their anxiety and fears associated with chronic shortness of breath and chronic cough. It also aims to reduce hospital admissions for these children who experience chest infections on a regular basis. The program has had positive results so far and the children continue to attend with smiles on their faces, eager to win the balloon race and musical statues.

I completed my voluntary time in May and from Harare, travelled to Cayman for some rest and relaxation and to visit a good friend from Cayman Physiotherapy. Cayman has been all that it promised to be and more! I have had a brilliant time snorkeling, kissing stingrays, drinking rum punch, swimming and soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the salad bar at the Brasserie Markets as well as fabulous fish, seafood and wine. Filling in at touch rugby and enjoying the fantastic squash court facilities were also a highlight and a great opportunity to witness the hospitable Cayman community spirit.

It is indeed a contrast to the barely recognizable streets of Harare and I am grateful to be able to enjoy both. I think that’s what I love most about this profession, the opportunity to improve the quality of life of people experiencing pain and disability whether it be a sporting injury or a lifetime disability, while being able to travel and experience all that this world has to offer.

Thank you Cayman Physiotherapy for inviting me to share my experiences with you. You are a fantastic clinic with a true Cayman atmosphere – friendly and welcoming. I have enjoyed getting to know you during the short time I have been here and will hopefully see you again sometime in the future, whatever that may hold!

All the best for the rest of 2011.

Jenny Nash.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more or reading about HIV in Zimbabwe and Newlands Clinic, go onto their website: www.swissaidscare or visit the website of an exceptionally well run orphanage in rural Zimbabwe: www.edenchildrensvillage.org They are always grateful for assistance and welcome volunteers from around the world.