The nation of Papua New Guinea, located just off the coast of the northern tip of Australia, is in a desperate situation. Though it is Australia’s closest international neighbor, the quality of life in the two nations couldn’t be more different.

The statistics are staggering. In the Pacific Region, PNG has the highest rate of HIV; it is estimated that by 2015, one in six will be infected. There are approximately 32 dentists in the whole country. In some rural areas, one in seven women will die during childbirth.

How can a few young people help a nation with so much need? YWAM Australia has been given an opportunity to make a difference. Last year, Marine Reach New Zealand felt that they were to give one of their medical ships, the MV Pacific Link, to their neighbors, YWAM Australia. The Pacific Link, equipped with an operating theater on board, is part of YWAM’s Marine Reach ministry that has been serving the Pacific Region since 1991, offering health services to remote island communities where medical help would not have otherwise been accessible.

On February 17th, the YWAM Medical Ship arrived in Newcastle, Australia for the beginning of the Australia and PNG Medical Ship tour. The vessel sailed across the Pacific from New Zealand to tell young Australians about how they can be a part of helping Papua New Guinea later this year.

YWAM’s Medical Ship will be traveling to 16 ports on the Australian coast before heading to PNG. Its purpose is to educate young Australians about the needs of PNG while giving them practical ways to help. One of the many ways they can help is by collecting eyeglasses and toothbrushes that the ship will then take to villages without access to these seemingly simple supplies.

 Not only can people donate, but there is the opportunity to go. Though the statistics in PNG are harsh, young Australians also face challenges. One in four Australian teenagers will suffer from depression. Many will even attempt to take their own life. Just as much as PNG needs health care, young Australians need a reason to live life to the fullest. YWAM Australia believes that providing opportunities to help others is one way to help bring life to many.

 Since its arrival in Australia, the YWAM Medical Ship has made a considerable impact on the communities of Newcastle, Sydney and Ulladulla. In Newcastle, 1400 people toured the ship and over 2500 students were given the opportunity to help through school programs led by hip hop dancers, bands and island dancers. A local radio station even made the vessel their home for a week as they broadcasted live from the medical clinic on board!

The ship docked free of charge at Darling Habour in Sydney, one of Australia’s most stunning landmarks. Crew members had a spectacular view of the harbor, while passersby could not miss the big, white medical ship at the wharf! Tours, a PNG Awareness Marquee and live performances entertained the public right on the wharf.

Already, there are countless stories of visitors being moved by the needs in Papua New Guinea. After hearing of the need in this nation, one man removed the glasses he was wearing and dropped them in the donation bin. A little boy was moved to tears at the thought of other kids like him not owning a toothbrush. Two local nurses were so filled with compassion that, after touring the ship, they bought four bags worth of eyeglasses and new toothbrushes.

The YWAM Medical Ship is also visiting the port city of Geelong, followed by Adelaide, Portland, Hobart and Eden. Once the Southern Tour finishes in April, the crew will take a short break and then begin touring the Northern Coast of Australia. The goal is to see 100,000 young people given an opportunity to help, by giving aid to Australia’s closest international neighbor.