Published on 3rd April 2017
VSA volunteer Ann Green's exercise-to-music class is 45 minutes of colour, music and laughter most afternoons at the Arawa Health Centre.
Ann’s a physiotherapist trainer on assignment with the health centre in Bougainville. She helps young mothers with antenatal care, including fitness, but she’s also helping her colleagues build their own fitness and energy, and have some great fun at the same time.
Health centre dental therapist Balbina Kari takes part in the programme. She’s feeling better and has more energy.
“The first day we had exercise class I felt very relaxed and slept very well. I enjoy the classes because we laugh all the time and that relaxes me for the afternoon.”
The idea for the classes came after the health centre ran a health promotion programme late last year.
“Almost everyone who took part in this programme asked me if I would start an exercise class or a walking group,” Ann says. “Eventually I decided an exercise class to music might work best and we started classes at the beginning of May. Often the music I used was Māori music which fascinated them.
“The idea was to get an aerobic workout, without physically over-stressing anyone. This suited me fine, as an intense programme would probably not be entirely appropriate for a 70 plus woman either! The sessions are fairly unstructured with elements of dance, star jumps and the like, and stretches. But I keep emphasising that the number one priority is to have fun, and we do.”
And fun is incredibly important when so much of the work Balbina and her colleagues do is in a tough environment. “I have huge respect for the nurses in the way they provide a health service under very difficult circumstances,” Ann says.
“They are understaffed and under-resourced. Hugely under-resourced. When I first arrived there was no running water in the wards because the water pump had been stolen.”
Joanita Tavio is a nurse involved in Ann’s sessions and says they provide real relief and benefits for her. “[I leave] feeling free of stress after working, and free of tiredness.” With the exercise group Ann’s brought about a small change, but one that is immensely valuable to her colleagues and ultimately to the people they care for.
That’s incredibly important to Ann. She and her husband Richard lived in Bougainville before the crisis and have both come back as volunteers to assist in rebuilding the nation they love. As VSA’s Bougainville Programme Manager Paul Bedggood says, “their dogged commitment is really inspiring.”