Flinders Exercise Science student Mary Simpfendorfer has taken her interest in using exercise as medicine all the way to Port Vila, the largest city of Vanuatu on the island of Efate.
Mary is among a cohort of Bachelor of Exercise Science/Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology students to undertake an international placement with Wan SmolBag (WSB) a community youth centre and theatre.
Learning some phrases in the Bislama language and teaching local children hockey and spider polo, Mary and her fellow Flinders students created an exercise handbook for WSB to engage the local community in the importance of exercise and wellbeing.
It contained exercise and nutrition guides, basics on strength and conditioning, and exercise techniques needed to prevent injury and gain results.
“It was good to be able to create this and give something back to the community which taught us so much,” Mary says.
“I heard many stories about how exercise had helped people there, whether is was for health purposes, getting involved in the community or engaging kids in the community centre through sports.
“Health care isn’t viewed in the same way there and many people are afraid to go to the doctor, so exercise was used to help treat problems or prevent diseases … and to introduce people to health care.”
While in Vanuatu Mary also engaged with the Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (VASNOC) which she found challenging yet rewarding learning to work with people with disabilities.
“I believe that these challenges have helped me have better practical skills and be able to apply and modify things to different situations,” Mary says.
“It has made me better at thinking on my toes and being able to improvise when I need to.”
Heading to Vanuatu won’t be Mary’s last challenge while studying her university degree.
She hopes to continue into the Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology, driven by a need to help people and an ever-growing interest in the allied health area.
“I believe the degree is helping me to build a solid foundation of practical and theoretical knowledge for be to build upon when I go into Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology,” Mary adds.