RISE Program - What to Bring?

Preparing for Fiji!

June Osborne - Sea Mercy Volunteer

The following is a list of items that (in my opinion) would be useful for your upcoming trip to Fiji:

First, let me say that Fiji and its people are wonderful, and you are about to embark on an amazing experience. I participated in the Sea Mercy rotation through the Lau Group last year, and returned from 3 weeks in Mbatiki, Ngua, and Makongai.

Health Care Team Needs - The most frequent medical complaints presented to us were:

  • Infected cuts – Supplies needed were antiseptic wash, sterile gloves, numbing medicine (shots) scalpel to lance, sterile irrigation, melting suture kit or butterfly strips, Neosporin or similar cream, sterile dressings (multiple to leave with patient as you will not be available to follow up). Antibiotics and pain medication were given as needed.
  • Boils - Supplies needed were similar to cuts.
Conjunctivitis and Pink eye – Medication to treat this would be helpful.
  • High Blood pressure - If you have a manual blood pressure cuff it might be useful to bring your own. Sea Mercy has several cuffs but they are not always at hand. Medication required.
  • Diabetes – Complete diabetes testing kits and strips would be useful. Remember many islands have no electricity so any electrical equipment is not always helpful.
  • Scabies – This is very common among the children. We have been going through LOTS of 5% Permethrin cream. More of this medication would be EXTREMELY USEFUL. We are looking into getting approval to use Ivermectin (tablets) but have not as yet heard back from the Ministry of Health regarding permission to issue this. Unfortunately, we were not able to acquire a copy of the Ministry of Health Formulary, so we could not check to see if it is allowed.
  • Centipede and other insect bites

If I may, I would like to offer some personal tips:

  • A lightweight waterproof jacket is useful. You will be travelling from the transport vessel to the island by landing craft or other vessel and perhaps walking or riding via longboat or dingy to other villages on the island. The wake splashes into the boat and although it’s not cold, salt water makes clothing difficult to dry out and smells bad after a day or two – so it’s better to stay dry – when possible. Clothing is best if it is ‘camping style’ i.e. very light and dries quickly.
  • Shoes: essential – get TEVA’s or other secure wet/dry sandals. You will be wading through water getting on and off islands – flip flops are slippery and come off in the mud/rocks.

Other personal things to bring:

  • Sleeping Mat - the older I get the less ability I have of sleeping on an non-padded floor. Depending upon your sleeping arrangements in each home, you might find having a good 1-2 inch inflatable pad will help a great deal.
  • Mosquito Netting - Another one of those options that can make a difference if you are in an open area. Make sure it is made of cotton netting (no poly) for they breath and allow airflow where the later does not. You should be able to hang it from the ceiling of the home and leave it with the family when you leave.
  • Sunscreen, insect repellant, insect bite treatment, sea sickness meds, crackers (saltines), snacks from home, back up battery packs for your phone, hat, water bottle, Fijian dollars.
  • Fijian dollars - it took my bank 1 week to get this currency so you might want to order it early. There is almost nowhere to spend money once your trip begins, but cash is useful for shopping before and after the trip, as small local shops and markets don’t take credit cards. When stores and hotels do take them there is a 3 – 5% surcharge to pay by credit card.
  • A Sulu. This is a piece of fabric (usually cotton) about 2 meters long and about 1 meter wide and is required of men and women alike. You can wear it over your trousers or shorts.
It is worn around the waist and covers the knees. It is required when going onto the islands.
If you search Sulu online you can samples of what Sulus look like. Women should dress modestly, with no cleavage showing and shirts should have small sleeves. No strappy tank tops. If swimming near the islands swim shorts and a t-shirt is more appropriate.
  • Luggage restrictions: You are allowed one 50 LB suitcase to check – (unless you wish to pay for more) and one carry on bag (15 LBS or less) on Fiji airlines. On the big planes they are not too picky about the carry-on weight, but when you connect with the small inter-island planes (Fiji Link) not only do they weigh your carry-on bag, they weigh YOU. They will charge excess if you are bringing more than allowed. We have tried with varying success to have Fiji Airlines wave the charges for extra baggage. So, we have adopted the technique of packing most of our clothing and personal items in the carry on bag, and using the 50LB suitcase for the supplies.

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful.
Please let me know if you have any other questions about your trip.

With my very best wishes for a fabulous experience.

June Lewis-Osborne

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