Posted on 7 September, 2017

Building capacity within communities is based on establishing relationships of trust, respect and a united purpose. Observing the local staff and visiting Open Heart International (OHI) teams working side-by-side, it is obvious relationships are quickly being formed and developed. Some of these relationships go back two years when OHI were last in Tonga. The joy of familiar faces brought an immediate positive energy to the wards.

With a team of 45 OHI medical staff and around 40 hospital staff, the Vaiola Hospital is a buzz with chatter, conversation and laughter. Working seamlessly together, there is an unspoken understanding that teamwork is needed to get the job done. Wary to not step on each other’s toes the flow from screening to transition to the wards appears seamless.


Standing bed side, all converse about the best approach to assist with the patient’s recovery and when not working meals are shared and breaks in shifts are spent telling stories about their countries, work and how delicious the Tongan food is! Even the quietness after a busy shift is reflective that everyone is working as hard as each other.

OHI believes that the way to create positive long-lasting change in the communities where our programs are held is to approach learning as a sharing of skills, acknowledging recognition of shared knowledge and the differing experience each member of the team brings to the team. Education sessions based on clinical skills are presented by the OHI team while local framing and contextual application by the hospital staff blends the knowledge with the meaning and relevance, making the sessions valuable to all of the team.


Continual desire to learn is a strength of the Tongan staff and having the OHI team return every two years is a way for the local nurses and doctors to update their skills and knowledge while undertaking self-directed and hospital supported learning in between.

When OHI travels into a community the experience is short-lived with the team being typically two weeks on the ground. Longevity of the program and services delivered are continued through the expertise and passion of the Tongan medical and nursing teams who continue to impart their knowledge long after the OHI team has gone.


Tags:  Tonga,