YWAM Medical Ships managing director Ken Mulligan is welcomed by PNG villagers.
YWAM Medical Ships managing director Ken Mulligan is welcomed by PNG villagers. Supplied.

Duo's ship of hope makes a difference in Papua New Guinea

Friends Ken Mulligan and Daryl Holmes had a simple wish - they wanted to make a difference in the world.

When the former farmer who gets seasick and the dentist first joined forces eight years ago, neither imagined their collaboration would take them to Buckingham Palace to receive OBEs for services in Papua New Guinea.

Ken, a retired New South Wales wheat grower and sheep grazier, and Daryl, a young dentist, first met in Townsville in the 1990s. Along with their wives and families, they were determined to use their knowledge and skill to give back to others in need.

It wasn't until 2010 that the opportunity to acquire a 35-year-old fishing vessel with an onboard dentistry clinic and capacity to accommodate up to 50 volunteers presented itself. Both knew it was time to collaborate.

"It struck me, straight to the heart,” Daryl recalls. "With a coordinated program offering medical, dental and optical services - plus capacity building - we could make a big difference to PNG.”

Youth With A Mission Medical Ships was born. Its purpose is to provide healthcare and training to rural communities in Papua New Guinea.

"I worked with Ken and helped with planning and strategy,” says Daryl, who is now managing director of 1300SMILES. "Our first boat was an old Japanese fishing boat. It was a good start but it was hard work.”

A woman in PNG's Central Province with badly stained teeth from chewing betel nut.
A woman in PNG's Central Province with badly stained teeth from chewing betel nut. YWAM Medical Ships

After a successful five-month fundraising campaign in 2014, YWAM Medical Ships purchased the MV YWAM, a 15-year-old former cruise ship.

"Our second boat is a 60-metre catamaran, four times the size and much more stable. It's fitted with dental surgeries, day procedure unit, optometry clinic, laboratory and accommodation for 100 people.”

In the 2017 financial year YWAM Medical Ships treated 28,632 PNG nationals and gave 5545 health education sessions to 149,723 people.

While the ship's statistics for treatments and procedures are impressive, Ken believes education and training are the keys to empowering communities.

"We are helping to build healthy villages one by one,” he says. "In turn that will help build a healthy nation - it's a holistic approach.

"Our goal is not to set up parallel services or replace existing services but to build capacity. More than 25 per cent of volunteers on the ship are PNG nationals and each of the villages we visit has local health care workers.”

In October, Ken and Daryl were presented with the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne.

Ken received the award for his services to the community and rural healthcare through YWAM Medical Ships, and Daryl was recognised for services to health through support for YWAM Medical Ships.

Both agree that it's not just the people of PNG who benefit from YWAM Medical Ships. "Our volunteers gain a lot from their experiences,” Ken says. "We have people from all walks of life and 30 different countries whose volunteering spirit comes from the heart.”

YWAM Dr Daryl Holme treating patient on board YWAM Medical Ship.
YWAM Dr Daryl Holme treating patient on board YWAM Medical Ship. Supplied

Daryl encourages his own team of dentists and dental assistants to volunteer.

"It's life-changing work - what you put in you get back.

"I still hold the record with 132 extractions in one day,” he laughs.

"It's sad really to think how many people in PNG live with chronic toothache. However, each time we revisit a village we notice that the health of villagers is improving because of the education and equipment we provide.”

How can you help?

Volunteer: YWAM Medical Ships is always seeking volunteers to help across a variety of fields.

Fundraising: Any amount will help but $3000 will buy a solar powered, portable dental chair.

www.ywamships.org.au


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