Figtree nurse Helen Richards is about to embark on a medical mission to Kenya to help locals deal with a condition that has a devastating effect on their lives.
In the past 18 years the stomal therapy nurse has helped hundreds of Illawarra patients adapt to life with a colostomy bag after treatment for bowel cancer or other conditions, and next month she's off to do the same in Nairobi.
Ms Richards said while the traditional African diet meant there was a low incidence of bowel cancer in that country, there were many cases where injury and trauma had caused bowel and bladder damage.
"While Africans don't have the same rate of bowel cancer due to a high-fibre diet, they suffer from a lot of congenital abnormalities and trauma-induced conditions that lead to bowel and bladder problems," she said.
"For instance young girls of 13 or 14 are giving birth, leading to traumatic deliveries and dreadful fistula problems where the bowel and bladder are perforated.
"This leads to them living a life where they are constantly leaking urine or faeces which causes odour and skin issues, much embarrassment, and can leave them very isolated as they are considered 'dirty' by others."
Over the years Ms Richards has sent thousands of colostomy bags to developing countries through The Australia Fund, but her latest mission will see her in the front line of care.
"Many Illawarra patients give back bags to me when they no longer need them; they are clean and often still in their original packaging," she said.
"So I contacted The Australia Fund which works with countries which have difficulty obtaining or affording basic products like colostomy bags.
"However, these products often end up sitting on shelves in these countries as the nursing staff don't know what to do with them, which is why I wanted to take part in this nurse training program in Kenya."
Ms Richards is one of 10 Australian nurses selected by the Australian Association of Stomal Therapy Nurses to conduct a month-long training course for nurses in Nairobi.
"If we can train these nurses, who will then train other nurses, so that people with these medical problems will be able to use and care for a colostomy bag," she said, "their quality of life will be so much more improved".
Ms Richards is thankful for the opportunity to take part in the voluntary program, but she does need financial assistance for travel and accommodation expenses and to buy and send textbooks to Kenya.
The Rotary Club of Corrimal is supporting her efforts and accepting donations on her behalf before October 20.
Donate to its Commonwealth Bank account BSB 062528; account number 00902781.