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Time for new blood

What do you do when you want a new challenge? Amelia Lutjens packed her suitcase and headed to Suva to help Fiji's National Blood Service roll-out a vital training program.

In 2012 Amelia Lutjens decided to take a year-long break from her role as a medical scientist with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. While many would have headed to the nearest beach to relax, the Melbournian started looking for different but still meaningful ways to fill her time. She chose to go on assignment through the Australian Volunteers for International Development program, an Australian Government, AusAID initiative.

As Training & Technical Officer with Fiji's National Blood Service, Amelia is now helping to improve the quality and quantity of Fiji's blood supplies. She is achieving this through the roll-out of a national training program that enables staff to improve their knowledge of basic blood transfusion principles.

"By strengthening staff skills and knowledge you see an increase in quality control procedures, improved storage and handling of blood products and better screening of blood donors," Amelia says.

"This reduces the risk of transfusion-transmitted disease through blood products."

For Amelia, the most rewarding part of her volunteer assignment has been working alongside such enthusiastic colleagues.

"Training people who are so eager to learn is extremely motivating and encouraging and balances out some of the difficulties that you face with the lack of resources," she says.

With the training program now underway, the next step will be for staff to design action plans outlining changes to be implemented in the workplace. The next Australian volunteer placed on assignment with Fiji's National Blood Service will help implement those changes.

To those considering a volunteer assignment, Amelia says the experience is certainly worth the challenge.

"It's brilliant because you get out of your comfort zone and you can use your knowledge and skills to really help people and make a difference."


Photo: Australian Red Cross/Sue Yantses