Robbert van Schuylenburg said he was discouraged when he saw the state of rural health care in Papua New Guinea in June 2014. He and dozens of other volunteers had sailed to the nation from Townsville, Australia, aboard the m/v PACIFIC LINK, and visited several villages that seldom receive medical assistance. The team included students from the Introduction to Primary Health Care (IPHC) and Discipleship Training schools at Youth With A Mission Townsville as well as medical and dental professionals. Van Schuylenburg — who is now with YWAM Ships Kona — said what he saw often was desperation.
“People were so desperate that they would hit their own tooth out with a stone because it hurt so much. Can you imagine walking around for three or four years with a highly infected tooth in your mouth?” van Schuylenburg said. “We were able to relieve those people and take their teeth out. We didn’t do that much restoring because a lot of teeth were just so far gone that they needed to be pulled.”
Van Schuylenburg said the circumstances were significantly different in villages that received visits from medical missionaries on a regular basis.
“We saw that in the villages where a team went for the fourth year, we did a lot more restoring teeth instead of extracting. We could see the effect of the teachings that teams from the PACIFIC LINK had brought years before that,” van Schuylenburg said. “They taught the people how to clean their teeth, why it’s important to clean their teeth and got rid of all the nasty teeth. Now, we were able to clean their cavities and teach them a bit more.”
We can sail to them and help out for one or two days, then sail away. Then, are they really helped? Doubtful — only a couple of people. If we are there not only to help them, but to teach them how to take care of themselves, it will have a far bigger impact,” van Schuylenburg said. “That’s what I said earlier: Coming back every year and seeing in the fourth year that there’s a really big change in how they view health care, how they see hygiene. We want to work ourselves out of a job.”