Australian Doctors for Africa: locals use Forward thinking to help those in need

Robert Forward has spent more than a decade collecting and shipping medical |supplies to Africa.         d466174
Robert Forward has spent more than a decade collecting and shipping medical |supplies to Africa.         d466174

LAST week, Robert Forward helped pack the 47th sea container that Australia Doctors for Africa has sent to the impoverished continent in the past decade.

Each container is packed with medical supplies destined for Somaliland, Ethiopia, Madagascar or the Comoro Islands.

Founded by Robert’s son Graham, an orthopaedic specialist, Australian Doctors for Africa is a charity supplying vital medical assistance to some of the poorest people on the planet.

Now in his mid-80s, Mr Forward has volunteered just over 11 years overseeing the logistics and administration of the busy organisation.

“We collect things like discontinued hospital beds, mattresses and walking frames and store them, sort them and then ultimately pack them into sea containers to be shipped away,” he said.

“We had a builder that went to Antsirabe in Madagascar to see what needed doing and he noticed a stench as soon as he approached the hospital.

“There was no sewerage system – all the sewage was out on the grounds and there were 108 patients inside but not a single bed.

“Each bed that we wheel on to a container in Perth, in six weeks a patient is going to be lying on it with a pillow and clean sheets.

“When you know what you are doing is helping people, it’s not a job and you don’t need motivation, it just comes naturally.”

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Mr Forward is one of two West Australians recently honoured with Paul Harris Fellow awards by the Rotary Club of Booragoon.

The other is Jacqueline Gilmour, founder of Hope for Children, a non-government organisation that for 20 years has worked to provide medical and social support to families and orphaned children in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Hope for Children established the free School of St Yared, which has received financial support from both the Attadale and Booragoon Rotary Clubs and provides education to several hundred talented children who otherwise would be unable to attend.

The Paul Harris Fellow, named in honour of the founder of Rotary, is the club’s highest award for members or non-members who have demonstrated their commitment to Rotary’s objectives of easing suffering and building world understanding and peace.