Posted on 26 April, 2016

It is pretty embarrassing when the clinicians I am travelling with, some award winning or internationally renowned, ask me how I came across Open Heart International and my answer is the reality dating show ‘The Bachelor’.


But that is the truth, and at least it is a different answer and a good story. And I love a good story.

I am a self-confessed fan of the reality dating show and before you judge me, please remember everyone has their guilty pleasures.

In the third series which featured bachelor Sam Wood, an intruder called Lana Jeavons-Fellows entered later in the season.

As well as the rest of Australia my colleagues and I, who would play Bachelor sweep*, took a liking to Lana because we thought she was a shoo-in, but also because we were fellow communications officers.

Lana was well poised, likeable, attractive and spoke about her international volunteer work in Cambodia during 2013; the latter particularly sparked my interest (ok, Sam wasn’t bad to look at either).


Above: Lana Jeavons-Fellows with Open Heart International in Cambodia.

After spending three years working in the South Australian healthcare system and interviewing talented, passionate, globally-recognised medical professionals who donated their time overseas to different causes, it was fair to say I was inspired.

The unfortunate factor for me was that these incredible organisations and volunteer placements were only available for clinicians, whereas I have worked in media and communications with a background in journalism.

I knew I had to apply, and it was something I had always wanted to do, but how could I find out the organisation Lana travelled with so I could use my skills?

This is when I wish I could say my investigative journalism skills kicked in, but it was blatant social media stalking- let’s be honest.

I followed the lovely Lana, from Sydney, on Instagram, hoping she would deliver. And she did.

One day, she posted she was releasing a delicious and nutritious smoothie book (follow this link; and all proceeds would go to… wait for it… Open Heart International.

Straight away I bought the book. Kidding, but I will because I feel I somewhat owe Lana.

Instead I immediately followed Open Heart International on Instagram and the love was reciprocated, they followed me back.

I jumped on the Open Heart International website, filled out the application form, had a couple of interviews, submitted written examples, had my references checked and now I am in East Africa for three weeks covering two surgical missions in Rwanda and Tanzania.

I have been, and will be, doing the public relations for Open Heart International here in Africa, until early May.


After telling this story over and over to the 30-odd amazingly talented clinicians I am travelling with and giving them a chuckle, they encouraged me to write about it and entertain others.

I am not quite sure whether they are laughing at me, or with me, but either way I am happy to tell the story and make people smile.

I am telling much better stories about the volunteers, the people and East Africa on this blog and I hope you check back in and read them as well. I promise their stories are better than mine.

Finally, I recently reached out to Lana (Ok, I stalked her again) to share my story and say thanks.

I am happy to report I “made her day”, she thanked me for sharing, she was glad I applied and she wished me well on this “life-changing” journey. I am serious, we legitimately messaged on Instagram and then emailed (I even showed my roommate to prove it).

We are going to catch up for coffee when I get back from Australia and pretend like we are long lost best friends. Ok, that part isn’t true.

I would like to add, believe it or not, there is a moral to this story. And if you haven’t already figured it out, let me point it out.

Where there is a will, there is a way.


*Bachelor sweep is just like a horse race. You put money in, ‘lucky dip’ a couple of entrants and the person with the winning contestant wins. It makes the series and going to work that much more fun.

Tags:  East Africa,