January 1, 2003 - FRHS: Joan Brabec worked in Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Papua New Guinea: Peace Corps Papua New Guinea : The Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea: January 1, 2003 - FRHS: Joan Brabec worked in Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, August 19, 2003 - 10:52 am: Edit Post

Joan Brabec worked in Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea

Joan Brabec worked in Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea

Called to work in Papua New Guinea

Lush tropical jungles, birds of paradise, white sand beaches and majestic mountains provided a gorgeous landscape, and a big career move for Joan Brabec, med tech at Faith Regional.

Her decision to move to Papua New Guinea wasn’t based on the gorgeous surroundings the country had to offer, or even a substantial raise in pay. In fact, it was just the opposite.

In 1980, Brabec felt called to volunteer her time and talents as a laboratory technician and health care educator to serve the people of Papua New Guinea.

In a country where nature’s beauty far exceeds the advancements in medicine and technology, Brabec worked with the Catholic Mission as a lab technician to instruct others on how to view slides for malaria. This rural lab training allowed the local people to help monitor this deadly disease and provide better care. Malaria is as common in Papua New Guinea as having a cold during a Nebraska winter.

After three years with the Catholic Mission in Papua New Guinea, Brabec joined the Peace Corps, for four years as a trainer of rural lab workers. Then a job with Project Concern International changed her focus to training village birth attendants. This experience allowed her to travel through the mountains and jungles and teach the natives the very basics in health care related to child birth.

“For a woman to go into a country with such strong male dominant beliefs, it was important to learn as much about their culture and customs as possible,” Brabec stated. “As foreigners, the volunteers would learn their cultural practices and help change what was medically unsafe, while preserving customs or beliefs that were not harmful.”

Without the advancements of modern medicine, Brabec and the Peace Corps staff instructed the native people about basic hygiene and care during the birthing process and illustrated proper childbirth techniques by modeling behaviors with a childbirth simulation doll. The volunteer educators gave each village their own childbirth kit, which included a bucket for water, soap, string and razor blades to cut the umbilical cord.

It was not uncommon for a woman to endure childbirth by herself. And, because of unsafe practices or unsanitary conditions many women died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

Often the village would disassociate themselves from a woman who had just given birth because of the cultural stigma of the birthing blood.

Brabec and the Project Concern staff worked to improve the conditions and safety of these women.

Following several years in rural public education, Brabec moved to Port Morsbey, to try her hand at small business.

Brabec stayed in Papua New Guinea until 1996. She returned to the United States to pursue her masters degree in public health from the University of Hawaii, which she received in 1998.

Family brought her back to Northeast Nebraska. And she joined the laboratory in January 2002. There was some adjusting after returning to the states. During her time abroad, there were no computers, except for her laptop, and the lab equipment used in the hospitals would have been replaced 15 years ago in the U.S. Once she returned to laboratory work in the U.S. she had to be retrained, because the advancements and technology were quite different from those available in Papua New Guinea. Reflecting back, Brabec really enjoyed the simple lifestyles and the friendly attitude of the people in Papua New Guinea.

It is interesting to see the combination of native tradition and culture, blended with the influences of western civilization.

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Story Source: FRHS

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - PNG; Nursing



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