Medical Sailing Ministries: Volunteer now for the MSM Vanuatu Mission 2017

The work of MSM involves meeting medical volunteers at pre-arranged locations and then transporting them, plus their gear, supplies and equipment, to remote islands, where clinics are conducted in village settings. Last year this involved visiting 18 islands, running 48 separate clinics, seeing 4,220 patients, dispensing 2,500 pairs of spectacles and arranging 300 surgical procedures.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

The MSM Vanuatu Mission 2017 now need willing hands and bodies to assist with different stages of the mission between May and November.

Privately Funded Mission 2017

Due to the recent withdrawal of Australian Federal Government funding, (as part of their recent overseas aid budget cuts), MSM is seeking to fund the mission solely from private donations and volunteer contributions.

National Oral Health Survey

Part of the 2017 mission will involve conducting a National Oral Health Survey to establish a clear understanding of “the state of the nation” in regards to all aspects of oral health.

This will be an academically rigorous, randomized survey of around 1% of the population (approx 3,000 people) in 4 different age groups and across the whole country; from remote villages on isolated islands to urban dwellers in the major city centres.  All done to an exacting W.H.O. standardized methodology.

It’s an incredibly ambitious task and something Australia and other developed countries do every 10-15 years (naturally at a cost of many millions of dollars) to establish a baseline understanding of whether plans, programs and money-spent (on a national level) are indeed making any difference across the population.

Such an Oral Health Survey has never been done before in Vanuatu, but given the oral health disaster that is unfolding there (and other Pacific island nations) plus the downstream impact poor oral health has on a multitude of other health and well-being factors, it is considered an essential starting point if the problem is to be tackled in a nationally coordinated, evidence-based manner.

Dentist Dr Barry Stewart and Mike Clarke – fellow members at North Ringwood Uniting Church and founding MSM co-ordinators, are driving the planning and implementation of the National Oral Health Survey.  Support is being provided by Melbourne University and a long list of generous individuals and organisations in Australia and in New Zealand.

Volunteer Positions Vacant …

The 2017 mission will extend from May to November and is broken into 8 stages.

These stages involve sailing Chimere to and from Vanuatu, plus four separate 2-3 week missions in different locations throughout Vanuatu.


MSM will need a crew of five: Captain, 1st Mate, Coxswain and 2 Deckhands.

They don’t require round-the-world-southern-ocean experience, rather, a solid background in sailing is generally required, plus a desire is useful, and get along with others. On the topic of the most important position of all … “the cook” … it’s ideal if one of the deckhands can assume responsibility for that role. However, that said, everyone, is expected to assist in this role when necessary


Each of the four medical teams will ideally consist of nine members, as follows: Coordinator, 2 Dentists, 2 Dental Assistants, Doctor, Nurse, Optometrist, Optometrist Assistant.

Some of the above team members will be local Ni-Van health workers, and there might also be additional local nurses and healthcare workers aboard from time to time.

The medical teams will [mostly] be living ashore in the villages where the clinics are to be conducted.

It’s important to understand that the sailing crew are there to keep things safe, fun and comfortable.

However, weather and sea conditions can impact life aboard [negatively] when travelling between villages and islands and so this needs to be taken into account.  Those with a proven and severe seasickness “issue” should probably think twice before volunteering. Others should take their own medications along just in case; plus of course a sense of adventure.

Why Volunteer?

Comments and feedback from those who have volunteered before – both sailors and medical – have centred around the uniqueness of the experience.  The satisfaction of being able to use what might be termed everyday skills and abilities to impact the lives of individuals and communities in such positive ways – people who have so little, yet are so appreciative of life, personal relationships and the small amounts of assistance they receive from time to time.

Volunteers on one level participate in order to “give”, but if past missions are any guide, they end up “receiving” so much more.

Here are a couple of links to comments from two past volunteers, Ramon Rees and Cam Heathwood …

Reflections of a volunteer sailor – MSM 2013 Vanuatu Mission 1 by Ramon Rees

Volunteer Cam Heathwood – Heading Home, 2014 Mission

Related to following destinations:

Related to the following Cruising Resources:

You must Login or Register to submit comments.

  1. January 31, 2019 at 2:56 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Update from Rob Latimer of MSM:

    Readers might be interested to know that we completed Mission 1 (of 4) for 2017 recently (around the southern islands of Vanuatu).

    One unexpected piece of excitement was the rescue of a sinking German yacht and her two crew off the entrance to Port Resolution, Tanna, at night on the evening of Sunday 25 June.

    They’d hit rocks which pushed their rudder up into the bottom of the hull, opening up a 50mm hole, which was sinking her as she was blown out to sea in the direction of New Caledonia.

    Mission 2 is currently taking place and the next two missions will be later this month and next, further north throughout the islands of Vanuatu

    Refer to for the daily Ships Log.

    In addition to the medical clinics, we are also coordinating a National Oral Health Survey of 1% of the population, across 31 islands and in 90 locations – a total of 2,880 people over 5 different age groups.

    We are doing the survey on behalf of the Vanuatu Ministry of Health to assist in developing a national approach to oral health which we all know is heading south as they increasingly adopt a western-style, sugar-based diet.

    Rob Latimer