In February 2015, Jovie Ann Decoyna, a nurse who works at Cabrini Health, Australia left for two weeks to volunteer in Rwanda. Accompanying her on the flight was the goodwill of many within the Cabrini community who had donated toys, clothes and medical supplies.
Rwanda, a central African country, remains impoverished and deeply scarred by the civil war that began in 1990, which climaxed in a frenzied period of genocide in 1994. Jovie travelled there as part of the medical program of the Global Volunteer Network and was supported by a Cabrini clinical services grant.
Jovie worked in a health centre taking blood, performing HIV tests, giving immunization protection, dressing wounds and assisting in the maternity unit. She dewormed children in a transient centre and visited women who had been victims of domestic violence. The medical supplies Jovie brought with her provided health workers there, at least for a short while, with the means to do their work as best they could. The donated clothing was distributed to the waiting arms of those who had little to call their own and whose gratitude was immense.
Until the volunteers arrived, the children’s beds in the transient centre were alive with bed bugs. Jovie was one of the volunteers who washed blankets and sheets by hand for hours and painted the beds in preparation for a shipment of new mattresses and bedcovers. The donated toys now grace beds fit for the children and have brought joy to their lives.
Jovie was shaken by much that she saw but grateful and honoured to be able to help. She says: “During one of my dressing changes, an elderly woman came in. Her wound was almost healed but I noticed that the scar encircled the entire lower leg around the ankle. She said she sustained it during the genocide. What can you say to an elderly woman who has carried the burden of seeing the horror and atrocities of the genocide through her open wound every day for 20 years? I just went on my knees and cleaned her wound in reverent silence.”
Jovie’s work does not end in Rwanda, she volunteers weekly with Asylum Seekers.