Amazing, awesome and inspirational would be the best words I could use to describe our recent trip to A Perfect Foundation’s Education and Environment Centre in Mappadegat, Mentawai. We chose this trip from a number of trips offered at the annual Perfect Foundation charity auction as we had a particular interest in immersion into the local culture. Gav (retired paramedic) has visited the Mentawai islands on surf boats over the last 6 years and has a passion for improving the knowledge in the region around surf rescue and first aid and I am a Registered Nurse and have a passion for improving access to health knowledge in remote areas, so this trip suited us perfectly. We are not 5 star holidaymakers, so there was also appeal in staying in local accommodation and experiencing the local culture.
We travelled with a basic CPR mannequin who came to be known as Harry by all of our students. We were able to teach basic first aid (relevant to the local community and available supplies) and CPR to eight young adult students of the Education centre and seven of the nursing staff from the local health clinic. Gav also taught basic first aid and surf safety and rescue to four of the young local surfers. Karen assisted with translation for the English students, as we do not speak Indonesian. Two of these students then translated for the other two classes, proudly demonstrating their ability to speak and understand English and their excellent comprehension of the first aid concepts we had taught. Whilst the heat is oppressive, the classroom boasts 3 fans and the students eagerly participated in the practical CPR training.
The islands and the region are magnificent and remain quite traditional in many ways. However, the western world is approaching fast which is particularly evidenced by the abundance of plastic rubbish everywhere – it’s devastating. We were so impressed by Karen and Tom’s enthusiasm for all they do at the centre. Not only are they dedicating their lives to teaching English to the locals, they are doing all they can to raise environmental awareness. We helped with a recyclables clean up along the local beach one afternoon and I couldn’t believe that two English people could sustain the heat longer than us Aussies!! I also couldn’t believe how much plastic rubbish the four of us and a small group of local ‘surf-girls’ could pick up in the space of about half an hour and a couple of hundred metres.
Karen and Tom have really immersed themselves into the community, also offering surfing lessons a couple of times a week for the local girls – we had an absolute ball helping out with this – even if it was a little chaotic due to the inexhaustible enthusiasm of the local kids.
We had an amazing holiday. It felt great to give back to the community in a small way, but we also thoroughly enjoyed all that the island had to offer. Tom and Karen were incredibly hospitable and we did make the most of their scooter, paddle board and dug-out canoe for trips out to Telescopes. Our accommodation was basic but clean and convenient and we used the cooking facilities once or twice.