Emma Sterling - Medicine in Tanzania
Arriving at the airport in Tanzania I was so excited but also a little bit nervous because I was travelling alone for the first time. Everyone travelling from Heathrow had been given each other’s e-mail addresses from Projects Abroad so we were able to arrange to meet and travel together. When we landed in Tanzania we were greeted by a friendly Tanzanian Projects Abroad staff member, who drove with us in the Dalla Dalla (bus) to our host families.
My host family was extremely welcoming and kind. When we arrived we were shown to our rooms that had comfortable bunk beds. I was in the house with three other volunteers so we got a chance to get to know each other and rest for the first day before going to our placement.
My 2 Week Special Medical placement
The medical volunteers were split into two groups and each group volunteered at a different hospital. The hospital that my group was assigned to was specifically for maternity and delivery care, as well as HIV testing. In the morning we were given a lecture by the head doctor. The topic I found most interesting was about the most typical viruses in Tanzania and how they have been controlling their spread through vaccinations and sexual health advice.
After the lecture we had a chance to help in the hospital; often we would weigh babies or be in the doctor’s office, helping him to diagnose patients by checking for edemas or measuring blood pressure. One of the days, we were even lucky enough to witness a birth!
Enjoying our free time
All the volunteers would go home to their host families for lunch after the morning at the hospital. We were always given a cooked lunch, and I particularly enjoyed the food. Typically we would have beans and vegetables, sometimes beef, with rice or chips.
After a couple of hours back with the host family, we would be picked up by the Dalla Dalla and taken to the Projects Abroad office. At the office we had a chance to e-mail our families back home and talk to other volunteers about the day.
Some evenings we were given talks at the office. The best talk for me was when we learnt some basic Swahili. Other evenings we would be taken to shop in the local market or eat at a restaurant as a treat. We also got to visit two orphanages where we got to play with the children, teach them to brush their teeth and give them a few sweets as a surprise.
Travelling in Tanzania
On the first weekend all of the Medical and Care & Community 2 Week Special volunteers got to go on safari. We drove down to a campsite and on the way saw giraffes and zebras up close. We put up our tents and then went to the local market to buy souvenirs. That evening we got to relax and go in the pool at the campsite; we also saw some traditional Tanzanian dancing at the campsite’s clubhouse.
The next morning we set off early to the Ngoro Ngoro Safari Park. We drove down into the crater where we saw baboons, lions, cheetahs, an elephant and much more.
Medical outreach in Masai
On one of our last days in Tanzania the Medical volunteers drove out with the doctors from the hospitals to a Masai area to undertake an outreach programme. The doctors mainly supplied them with antibiotics, ibuprofen or crèmes for fungal infections. We also went to the Masai museum where we got to look at traditional Masai housing and ride camels.
I can honestly say that this was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to meet some really great people who I had lots in common with and hope to see again in the near future. I also got to know a culture so far from my own and learn things that couldn’t possibly be taught in a class room.
If I had the chance I’d do it again. In my two weeks in Tanzania I gained an awareness of some of the difficulties faced in the area. I became more humble as a person with the knowledge of the privileges we have back home which is so often taken for granted and was able to make a positive contribution to the hospital.