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I haven’t updated my blog here in Tanzania as much as I was planning to or wanted to, unfortunately. The thing is, my stay here just hasn’t been as eventful as my stay in the Philippines. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because I’ve been doing things such as going to the beach on working days (after work, of course) much more often than in the Philippines, and the work has included much more variety and a lot of very interesting work. To say the least, I have learned a lot at the hospital.
What I mean when I say it is less eventful here than the Philippines is, as I explained in my last post, that the things done here are much more similar – beaches and markets are the main thing, and also going out drinking/partying during the weekends. In the Philippines we used to travel somewhere every weekend, to see something. The thing is that transport AND different tourist attractions, etc. were really cheap in the Philippines, and there were to many different things to do with just a few hours of traveling! Here in Tanzania though, things are more expensive and there aren’t as many varied attractions spread out in the same way. That doesn’t mean that my stay hasn’t been as good, though. The stay has been absolutely amazing – the beaches and the markets are lovely, the locals are amazing, and so are the other volunteers. There are a lot more volunteers here, and for a while that frustrated me. However, that also means that you often get more different options when looking for something to do with your time off, either in the afternoon and evenings or during the weekends. As I generally find that it gets boring pretty quickly to lie on a beach all day, and there are only a few similar markets nearby, I have often opted to stay home, however. I have been going to the gym a few times per week, either at one of the beaches (when I say beach I mean that we go to a hotel and pay to get in and stay at the beach and pool – those hotels also have a gym you can pay to use), or at the nearby gym called Azura Health & Fitness. This weekend, for instance, I’ve decided to just stay home and relax. I went to the gym on Friday and again today, Sunday, however. I figured I just wanted to relax around the house this weekend, as my roommate is out on safari with a group of volunteers (they’ve rented a safari car and are driving themselves, crazy motherf***ers – traffic here is insane, and they drive on the left side of the road – which they don’t in the Netherlands where my roommate is from!). Anyway, this is my last weekend here in Dar Es Salaam, as I am going home next Sunday but will be in Zanzibar from Wednesday and until Sunday.
It would be a shame to say that nothing has been happening since my last blog post – actually, quite a lot has happened! First of all, my Danish roommate, Mathilde, moved out of the house and to a different host family. She then ended up moving once more to a third one – long story, but one thing was that she needed some girls around her, as all she could look forward to here was two guys – leading me to the fact that two days after Mathilde moved out, Olivier moved in. Olivier is a Dutch volunteer, and a pretty cool guy in fact. I’m very happy to have him as roommate here, and we are finishing our projects almost at the same time, so in a way it all fits perfectly.
I wasn’t at the house when he moved in though, as I was on a 4-day safari at the time up in Arusha, going to places like Tarangire National Park, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro and Ngorongoro Crater. We saw a lot(!) of animals, and I loved the way they didn’t even seem to notice the cars. I know that is in fact not natural, but the thing is that they just carried on with their natural behavior as if we weren’t even there, letting us see how they would normally act. Of course the car still scared animals like zebras, but lions, leopards, elephants, etc. generally didn’t care about us. That meant we got to see some of them up close, as if in just a few meters from the car! We also had the accomplishment and luck to see the ‘Big Five’ meaning the buffalo, the elephant, the leopard, the lion, and the rhino. Those are not, as you might expect, the biggest animals. They are, however, the hardest and most dangerous ones to take down. The Ngorongoro Crater is the most likely place to see the rhinos, but there are a maximum of 15 rhinos in the crater, as they are pretty close to dying out. Anyway, we were really lucky to see a total of 5 of them! All of them were from a distance (they practically never go close to the road), but still close enough that with a good camera you could get pictures where you can actually make out that they are rhinos.
Other than that, my free time has been pretty relaxed. It’s included a bit of going to beaches, to the gym, or simply just relaxing and reading a good book (currently reading ‘A song of ice and fire’ series aka. Game of Thrones). I went to Bongoyo Island one weekend, which is a small island called ‘mini Zanzibar’. You go there on a daytrip – it’s very touristy, as you pay for transport there and back, for entrance to the island, for tanning beds, and even for the parasol for shade. And, obviously, you pay for food. The beach is really nice, though – lovely white sand and blue, clear water. There is even the opportunity to do a bit of snorkeling around the island. The food there is amazing too! There’s freshly caught seafood – crab, lobster, fish, prawns, you name it. I had a crab, and you really get a big one with a lot of meat on it (yes, you get the whole crab). And then you basically just spend your day lazing in the sun with music or a book – or sleeping if you have a hangover (I’m looking at you Olivier!).
Okay, back to the serious stuff – the work. The work has been crazy – mostly in a good way. It is pretty intense in a way, with so many new impressions that I have sometimes been very happy to only work 9am to 1pm, as it can be tough. There have been really boring days too, though. Days with practically nothing to do except wander around from one department to the other, sit with your phone (or talk to people around you if there are any), or go home early.
I have done three night shifts, as I wanted to try something different. All three times I have mainly been staying at the Minor Theatre, and also observing in the injection room as Alex, the nurse who was on duty took care of both during the night. The first night shift I did was really boring in truth. There was practically nothing to do; only a handful of patients came in and with nothing serious. That’s why I decided to go again the day after; I figured that if one day was so quiet, the next would be busy. And guess what – I was right. There were almost constantly new patients with cut wounds after being robbed (or attacked after trying to steal/rob, you never truly know if they were originally the victims). A day or two before I had learned how to stitch a patient – yes, they actually taught me, a volunteer with no medical experience, how to give local anesthesia and then stitch up an actual patient! It was a small cut on the shin of a guy who had cuts all over his body. It only needed a few stitches, and while it wasn’t easy (skin is tougher than you’d expect!), it wasn’t all that difficult either. They generally don’t do cosmetic stitches here, so the stitches I did were very simple ones – stick the needle through on both sides of the wound, then tie thoroughly. And, since they don’t keep the sutures sterile themselves when stitching, I didn’t have to either (I don’t know how, so I couldn’t, even if I wanted to). I look forward to learning that when I am back in Denmark, though. Anyway, during the night shift, Alex is at the injection room and I am left with a young guy (a medical student I think), who suddenly looks at me and asks if I know how to stitch and can take a patient by myself to stitch up (at this point we had maybe six people sitting outside the door waiting to get treatment, and he was the only one working). I say that yes, I’ve tried stitching once, but it would probably depend on the location of the wound. He says it’s on the back of the hand, and a pretty small cut. No problem I think, and the patient comes in. The thing is, that the wound he was talking about was simple enough, but the patient also has a wound between two fingers that needs stitching – and the middle finger is broken as well, so stitching the wound causes a lot of pain as I have to spread his fingers. I of course give him a lot of anesthesia and do my best. I somehow manage to get the wound between the fingers stitched up with to stitches, and then ask the young guy if it looks okay. Luckily, he says I did fine.
After that, I end up getting my own patients for the rest of the night, mainly for stitching. The most difficult one was a flap of skin/meat where most of the eyebrow was just hanging loosely. The guy had been brought in by the police who said he had been in an accident – he seemed very disoriented, and kept trying to turn over to lie on his side instead of his back, making the work even more difficult. The wound might have taken seven stitches or more, I do not remember. There were also more knife/stab wounds, one on the top of the head for instance – it was pretty long, but also a very clean cut and not too deep, so it only needed three stitches. There were also two open factures to the shin: flashback – myself when I was just 11 years old. However, the treatment I got was much, much better of course. In Mwananyamala Hospital they don’t even have the resources to deal with open fractures, so what they do is simply to fixate the leg using… wait for it… pieces of cardboard boxes wrapped with a bandage! Then they transfer the patient to a bigger hospital that can do orthopedic surgeries.
During my time at the hospital I’ve only had two encounters with actual death. I’ve seen patients on the verge of dying; thinking they might not last the night, or the next two hours, but only twice have I seen actual death up close. The first time was a Friday coming into work as one of the only volunteers – the others were doing a medical outreach, but I had decided to skip out on that to get a chance to do some extra work at the hospital when no other volunteers were around (that was the day I stitched up my first patient). As I entered the door to the minor theatre, the corpse of a guy was already lying on a stretcher in the already small and cramped room. He was mostly covered with a sheet, but it was still easy to see that it was a corpse lying there. I asked if it was okay to take a look, and it was. The man was already turning quite cold, but rigor mortis (stiffness of the limbs after death) hadn’t set in yet, so he hadn’t been there more than an hour or two. He had died in a motorcycle accident from a deep cut to the head, and had already been dead when he was brought in to the hospital.
The second time was last Thursday. A guy came in after an accident, also with a serious head wound – supposedly he had fallen off a roof. He was still breathing though, and had a pulse so strong that you could actually see the artery in his neck pulsating. It seemed that all the blood was collecting at the head, though, so I thought already as he came in that he might not make it. He was completely unconscious, his pupils not responding to light at all. I imagine there was swelling of the brain and probably brain damage. The staff at the hospital rushed to place an IV to give him some fluids (that is all they can do – they don’t have blood around for transfusions either), but mere seconds after the IV was placed, the artery I was looking at stopped pulsating and the patient stopped breathing. He was dead. The staff took it quite relaxed – they had clearly expected it, and did not attempt to resuscitate him (I admit that it did seem hopeless, but in Denmark you wouldn’t just give up like that. However, they didn’t have the means to help him here, so it was really up to his own body if it was going to keep him alive or not). It was disturbing to see in a way, mostly because it is the first person I see someone die. It was not too bad, because I never saw any other life signs from him than his pulse – he hadn’t moved, spoken, or shown any other signs of being alive. However, it did make me think through the fact that it could be anyone in that position – me, or somebody I love – that suddenly is involved in an accident, have a heart attack, a stroke, or something else entirely – and dies. We all think we’re going to have tomorrow, that we’re going to live another day, another month, another year – and fail to realize that some of us don’t. Some of us leave before we should, some die for one reason or the other. Of course you shouldn’t live your life in fear of dying. But I think I would like to get better at realizing that you never know when it is your time to go, or one of your loved ones. I would like to get better at living in the moment, not thinking of the past or the future too much, but enjoying what I have right now. Now don’t expect me to be a completely changed person and all poetic – I’m not talking drastic changes, I’m just talking about enjoying my life more. The experience is already fading from my memory in truth, but it did make me reflect a bit about life and death, and I think that is a healthy thing.
Okay, let’s turn this depressing subject around and talk about something else than death; and what could be better than it’s counterpart: life! I’ve also spent to days at the labor ward and witnessed a total of four births. Three of the babies were pulled from the mother using suction – they only give the women 15 minutes to push here, no matter if it is a mother’s first time or fifth time to give birth. The fourth and last baby was born completely naturally though, no suction, only pushing and the baby coming out by itself. While I did find it to be fascinating in a way, I do not intend to go that way when studying medicine. The screaming women and children were a little more than I’d be able to handle day in and day out. That being said, I am very happy I got to go there and experience new life being brought into this world – but let me tell you; while the concept of giving birth and bringing new life into the world seems a beautiful thing, the process is far from beautiful! There is loads of blood, loads of pain and loads of stools – when giving birth, a woman needs to push about the same way as when pushing out a turd on the toilet. In Denmark they often make sure the colon is empty so that won’t happen, but here the woman will often be pushing out stools as the baby comes out. Supposedly, that is actually the best thing to do; to not have the colon emptied beforehand. Anyway, as I said, the process is not beautiful – but seeing a newborn baby and hearing the first scream, the first sign of a living, healthy baby, is something special I’ll admit – and makes it worth bearing with the rest to witness it at least once.
Other than that, I’ve learned to place an IV as well. Took me a few tries the first time, but the second time I managed on first try. I also learned how to place a urine catheter; although the way they do it here, it’s a miracle that everyone doesn’t have urinary tract infections. They just take the whole thing out, grab it by the hand (with gloves, but not sterile ones), put gel on it and stick it in. Even if they have problems and have to take it out, they keep using the same one. It’s pretty crazy, and nowhere near a sterile procedure. Anyway, I’ve learned how to place it – the sterility will have to wait for when I start studying. The patients are generally quite thankful that we help, but the people here don’t look at locals the same way they did in the Philippines. In the Philippines we’d get a lot of appreciation and sometimes they’d even give us gifts such as fruits when we were working as a thank you. Here some of the doctors and nurses really dislike us. Maybe it’s because we come trying to take their job. Maybe it’s because the medical students who know about things such as sterility try to correct them and come off as ‘thinking they know better’, or maybe they just don’t want us wandering around the hospital. That being said there are also a lot of nice doctors and nurses that are more than willing to teach you new things – you just have to look for them and be polite and friendly, then you’ll make friends in the hospital in no time.
Cyst removal :)
It is now Monday, as I didn’t finish the blog last night. I was actually supposed to go to the hospital today, but there was no power in the house during the night meaning no fan and too hot to sleep, so I’ve decided to stay home and start packing and sorting my things – for Zanzibar, for going home, and for donating. I also need to wash all my clothes. Tomorrow is going to be my last day at the hospital, so I’ll have to go there and say goodbye.
My last few days in Tanzania will, as mentioned, be spent in Zanzibar where I’m going to get my Advanced Open Water diving license! I’m going there with two girls and maybe a guy, all other volunteers, but I’ll probably be the only one diving. I don’t mind though, as it should be a lot of fun anyway, and I will still have some time off to spend with the others.
Regardless, this has been an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve had an amazing time both in the Philippines and in Tanzania, and I wish I could’ve stayed longer both places. However, I also want to go home to my family and friends during Christmas, and while I don’t miss the cold in Denmark, I do miss the people I love, and look very much forward to seeing them again. Will I be returning to the Philippines? Probably. Will I be returning to Tanzania? Probably. Will it be as a volunteer? I have no idea. There is so much left to see in both countries, and I definitely want to return and climb the Kilimanjaro one day! I’ll definitely also be dropping by my host family to say hello when I do return. I have visited to very different countries, although there are a few similarities (but not many at all! Of course they also have a few similarities even to Denmark), and I have fallen in love with both countries, each in its own way. The work can be frustrating at times, but very rewarding at other times. In the end, I think it’s all worth it, and an experience I am very happy with and wouldn’t want to be without it. While I wouldn’t consider myself a changed person from the experience, it does give some new perspective to life – how some people live every day with close to nothing while we in western countries have everything we could ever need and more.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to the cold weather in Denmark at this time of year, but seeing my friends and family will definitely make it worth it – and truth be told, the heat here can actually be quite overpowering, since the humidity is high as well. This means that just by walking around during the day you’re going to be drenched and dripping with sweat. But first comes Zanzibar, I’ll worry about the cold when I’m seated on the plane at midnight between Sunday and Monday!
It’s amazing how time flies. I’ve already been here in Tanzania for two and a half week, and I still feel like I’ve just arrived. It’s also funny how when I came here, instead of comparing Tanzania to Denmark, I’ve mostly been comparing it to the Philippines as I came straight from there. It’s been fun to compare, as there are things that are very similar and things that are very different.
I arrived at my host family on Tuesday 27th of October in the afternoon. Someone called Seleman picked me up at the airport. I had to wait for him for 15-20 minutes, as he was late because of traffic because I arrived in the middle of the election here in Tanzania. I was taken to my host family straight away to be shown to my room and introduced to my host mother, Mama George. She welcomed me and told that this was my home for the next eight weeks and that this would be my Tanzanian family. She showed me the house and introduced me to the maid. I had dinner around 6pm (that’s an early dinner here) and sat and talked to Mama George for the rest of the evening.
The house is very nice, a lot nicer than I expected, and I can understand that my house is really nice in comparison to many others! We have running water (not drinkable though), a shower, a western-style toilet that can flush (although it clogs VERY easily), and I have a nice ceiling fan to keep from overheating in the night. For some time we've had to take a bucket shower though, as the water has to be pumped from outside which means it takes some time before there's any pressure on the water again. i don't mind, though, as I actually felt more clean after a bucket shower than a regular shower with very weak water pressure. We have electricity, but there are very common power blackouts where the power will disappear for anywhere from a couple of minutes to practically the entire day. It's mostly during the day, but once or twice it's been during the night (ceiling fan stops - damnit!) and sometimes early morning. Once we didn't have power for the entire day but found out that was apparently because our host mother had to go and pay for the electricity, so when she came home again in the evening she had a bill with her with a code on it that needed to be typed in to a machine before the power came back.
No power at dinner time means a romantic candlelight dinner instead.
The next day, Godwin, a Projects Abroad staff member, picked me up around 9. He took me to the office where I paid 250 USD for my CTA permit (allowing me to work as a volunteer in Tanzania) and got a t-shirt, a medical coat and some scrubs. Then he took me to the hospital to meet Dr. Wandi, who is supposed to be my supervisor at the hospital. He’s supposed to give every volunteer a schedule and a logbook and then they’re supposed to follow the schedule. The case is, however, that he is very busy, and although I did get to meet him on my first day, I haven’t yet got my schedule. I’ve seen him once or twice since and said hi, but whether I’ll ever get the schedule, I don’t know. I have also heard from other volunteers that nobody really follows the schedule and really just go to the departments where they like to be. I’ve decided to do the same, and as such I’ve spent most of my time in either the Minor Theatre (where every kind of less complicated things shows up + a few more serious things) and general surgery/surgical ward (pre- and post surgery) which are two of the places where there is a good chance to actually be allowed to do some work as a pre-med (not yet studying medicine). It is mostly nursing work, however the nurses and doctors will still tell you some of the facts about the cases, including how they diagnose and what they do when they don’t yet have a certain diagnosis. I don’t mind doing nursing work when I’m here either, as it is very much hands-on and easy to learn and understand without having studied already. Yet you still get to learn a lot. A very important thing, however, is that the cases are generally very different from what you would see in a western country and as such, it only provides experience and knowledge that can be helpful in a broad perspective, but generally not with specific cases when I return to Denmark.
The most common diseases in the 'general surgery' ward (pre- and post-op) - nothing like the Danish cases
I’m hoping to go to the major theatre (the major surgeries) next week to observe a surgery or two as I think it might be interesting to see how they handle surgeries, sterility, etc. here. The case is that sterility practically doesn’t exist here. Now I’ve never learned how to practice complete sterility myself, but I do know that when you put on sterile gloves and immediately touch the fingers of the glove with your hands to pull the glove on, it is no longer sterile. Or when you put sterile gloves on and proceeds to grab a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, iodine, saline solution or whatever they need as those things are definitely not sterile. I find it to be a huge waste, as the sterile gloves are a lot more expensive than regular gloves, and they use a lot of them without knowing how to practice sterility anyway. They also use sterile gloves for regular wound cleaning which we wouldn’t even do in Denmark – however, to be fair, everything gets so easily infected here that I suppose every attempt they make to be just a little more sterile is a positive thing.
Snuck this picture in the minor theatre of how the trays are cleaned. They're dipped in those three buckets (not sure what's in each) and sometimes even scrubbed with a cloth (the same ones used to clean the examination beds - the same clothes everytime, also lying in some sort of water). Then they leave the trays to dry before using them to place 'sterile' gause, cotton, etc. in from an incubator.
So that was a bit about the hospital. Let’s talk a bit about my free time. Our work days are very short, from 9am to 1pm but even then, if there’s nothing to do at the hospital or you just get hungry, you can just go home earlier, as you eat lunch at home and in my case, going home with the Dala-Dala (bus) takes almost an hour as I have to walk 10-20 minutes before and after the Dala-Dala each way. It is also very hot, which make you tired and hungry, especially because many of the host families just serve white bread with some butter/margarine and/or jam for breakfast. Dinner is the main meal here in Tanzania, and as such, they rarely make anything special for breakfast or lunch. However, I’ve bought some eggs, vegetables and some brown bread so I can make myself a decent breakfast in the morning.
So we’re off very early which means that very often the volunteers will do something together in the afternoon such as going to a market, eating out, going to the beach, etc. That means that I have gotten lazy! Or at least it means that I’ve changed my priorities a bit, as in the Philippines I went to a gym around 3 times per week. With all the activities here I’d like to socialize and as such I have only been to a gym two times in my first two weeks when we were at a hotel (we go to a hotel with a beach and pool in the afternoon sometimes) that has a gym and then just paid to use the gym facilities there. I hope to get to go at least twice per week in the future though, as I must admit I miss working out!
The weekends admittedly aren’t nearly as exciting as they were in the Philippines. In the Philippines we’d all go somewhere every weekend, to experience something new. Here it’s more staying at different beaches or going to markets, which is fun sometimes, but I must admit that just lying on the beach and going to the same markets gets boring eventually, although I do enjoy the markets. I don’t like spending day after day on the beach, though. Next week we’re going 6 people on a 4-day safari in Arusha though – we’ll take a plane early Thursday morning and another one back to Dar Es Salaam late Sunday evening. I’m so excited and hope to have an amazing experience on the safari.
The entrance to Kunduchi, one of the hotels we go to and enjoy the beach, sun, pool, and in my case also the gym.
The weekend after I might go to Zanzibar, as I would like to go there twice. I’m not sure though as I have to be a little careful with the budget too and I don’t know if I’ll be able to share room expenses with anyone. Tanzania seems to generally be more expensive than the Philippines, especially Zanzibar is quite expensive, and I don’t want to spend all my money while I’m here. We’ll see though, I really hope to be able to go twice. If not, I might go for a full week instead by the end of my project to save on transport.
By now I must admit that I am sometimes starting to miss home. I admit that it is some extra stress when you go from one country/culture to another, and you need at least a week to adjust to the new environment. It wasn’t too hard, but sometimes I have to remind myself that I am no longer in the Philippines, and Tanzania is very different in certain aspects that you have to be aware of, such as clothing and generally the way you approach other people. In the Philippines they were quite westernized, whereas they are not in Tanzania, and some of the things we’ll usually do or say they’ll take quite personal I’ve found. You have to learn to respect their culture and whenever the cultural difference makes for complications it’s important to ensure them that you meant no disrespect, as you didn’t know their culture was so different in that aspect. Luckily, Tanzanians also seem to be forgiving and kindhearted which means that even when you do offend them, they’ll forgive you, as they know you’re from another culture and are trying your best to adjust.
I look forward to seeing my family at Christmas though, and hopefully some friends before and after new year’s eve, even if I might go to Brazil already in January or February for a few months. I’m not sure if that’s happening yet, as I could also try to find a study relevant job. But then again, I could always take another year off to work if necessary. I don’t feel like I’m really in a hurry to start studying but I also don’t want to wait too long. Right now I’m enjoying life though, and I don’t feel like I need the stress of studying just yet. I’ll see what happens, though.
I hope you’re all enjoying life at home and slowly warming up for Christmas. Even with the tragedy in Paris, France, I hope you all keep your heads high – don’t let the terrorists break you, stay happy and stay strong. It’s a shame to see such bloodshed, but seeing the life standards of people in the Philippines and Tanzania I find some sort of comfort in the fact that the people who died in the attack likely was blessed with good lives with little to no troubles before, and that any wounded people will receive good quality health care. Seeing people coming in to the hospital here beat up and with open wounds that practically can’t heal here due to lack of good quality treatment. They pour saline solution, hydrogen peroxide and iodine into open wounds here. They risk giving every patient blood poisoning, but they still do it because it’s better than doing nothing and letting the wounds untreated which will eventually kill the patient. They simply don’t have the resources to do better.
I don’t think I’ll ever complain about the Danish hospitals and healthcare again, no matter how long I have to wait or no matter how grumpy the nurses are. Here some of the staff will laugh at the patients in front of them, because what can they do? They need the treatment. Of course not all the nurses and doctors do that, most of them are really nice and seem to actually care that the patient receives good treatment, but unfortunately there are those that don’t.
It’s a hard world and it’s especially hard to see the standard here in Tanzania, and I really wish I could do more than I can. I’ll just have to make the best of it and help wherever I can, while learning as much as I possibly can.
P.s. one of the local supermarkets is selling Lurpak - can't find a more Danish product than that!
So, I have been accepted by Projects Abroad to travel to Ghana and help children and youth in need. I should be excited but I am nervous becuase now it is all becoming real. I have to raise around $8000 to make this trip possible. This trip is more than just completing my intership hours for school, this trip is the beginning of dreams and hopes becoming reality. My hopes and dreams are to help and care for children and youth. I'm hoping that money will not hinder me from doing good. Im going to work as hard as a I can to make this possible and trust that God will see me through this trip.
So, this the beginning; should be excited but nervous. Hoping and praying that I will be able to share God's love with my people in Ghana.
The beginning of the New Year, means that we get to start afresh and tackle the challenges that we would like take on. One of the care projects goals is to see a full implementation of our Care Management plan at all our placements.
This year our care volunteers will be focusing on 6 year old children, who will enter into primary school the following year. By doing this our project can have a more structured programme that will allow us to keep up with the progress being made. We will now be able to make sure that the development of the children is on the same level as their peers, making them eligible to start with their Grade 1 education.
Through a volunteer task list, the volunteers at the care placements are given goals in different areas such as literacy, numeracy and stimulation. Our volunteers play a vital role in assisting the teachers to keep record of the children’s development. Teachers and volunteers work hand-in-hand in creating visual aids, activities and planning of weekly lessons that will also focus on the four key areas of early childhood development (Physical, Social, Emotional, and Learning).
Click here to read the Care Management Plan in full.
To learn more about medicine in developing countries and to expand her medical knowledge is what made Jenna Cosentino, 20 years old from the USA, to volunteer in the Philippines through Projects Abroad.
She was a medical volunteer in the Cebu Provincial Hospital-Bogo City. Like any other volunteers, she also assisted the doctors and nurses and worked with volunteers in the hospital. In the morning, they made rounds, taking patients vital signs: blood pressure and temperature. Projects Abroad volunteers increase the productivity in the hospital as the volunteers are able to do some tasks while the doctors and nurses are still busy attending to the patients. She noticed that Projects Abroad helped in fixing the hospital to make it more appealing and clean. “While I was there Projects Abroad was working in the Pedia-ward and they re-painted some walls and ceiling and also replaced the doors of the comfort rooms. Many volunteers also donated supplies to the hospital. Two of my fellow volunteers and myself bought and donated 4 fans to the OB ward as there were no fans in there prior to that day , with the new babies and suffering from heat”, she said.
Jenna worked at the hospital starting from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon. Upon arriving in the morning, she accompanied a nurse or a fellow volunteer and took all of the patients’ vital signs. They checked if the patients’ blood pressure and temperature have change much from the day before and try to advise them what to do to try to make them better. She was able to assist in many departments at the hospital too. She enjoyed being in the delivery room as she was able to witness many deliveries, and also liked to be in the emergency room as it was always a surprise what she should see.
For her, she learned an immense amount of information during her short stay in the Philippines. From the way things were run in the hospital, to the way that the locals lived, to the stories shared over dinner with her host family. “From my first day in the Philippines, my host family made me feel right at home and as if I was a part of their family. My host brothers and sisters always made sure that I had everything that I needed and if there was anything that I needed they would accompany me into town and show me where to go to get what I needed”, Jenna said.
“One of my most memorable experiences in the Philippines was watching a mother gave birth and assisting the doctor and nurse in this process. I stood with the nurse while the baby was born and after the baby was born, I remember being the first to tell the woman that it was a little boy and the smile on her face was priceless. I was then able to assist in cleaning the baby and giving him his vaccinations and then carried him over to his mother. Seeing her face light up when she saw her son for the first time was priceless and a moment that I will never forget”, she added. Another one of her favourite moments was donating the fans to the OB ward with two fellow volunteers and seeing how happy the mothers were by being given by simple little fan was amazing and they knew right then how happy they had made them. Jenna loved how every single member of Bogo City community was so kind and welcoming and they all helped her to make Bogo feel like home to her. “I will forever miss the heart-warming smiles that I saw every day on the streets of Bogo and from my host family. For any other volunteers I would advise them to make most of their time, try new things and always keep an open mind! Your time in Bogo will fly but the memories will last forever”!
Jenna Cosentino (USA)
It has been a pleasure to see foreign people come to the Philippines to help those who were affected by super typhoon Yolanda. To date, it was last November 8, 2013 when it hit the Philippines. The massive destruction it brought made most of the people living in northern Cebu and neighbouring provinces, homeless. Until now, several people are still in the recovery process. Projects Abroad with the help of its volunteers has been extending help to rehabilitate schools and build houses.
Among of the volunteers who came and helped at the building project was Emmanuel Clerc, 31 years old from France. He came to the volunteer for he wanted to make a difference for the people affected by the typhoon and therefore was a disaster relief volunteer. He was assigned in Maño, San Remigio, Cebu, a 20-minute ride from Bogo City at the relocation site of the typhoon Yolanda survivors living in San Remigio. A total of 300 houses to be built at the site and it really needs help from the volunteers to reach the target.
At the site, Emmanuel was given enough work along with his fellow volunteers from other countries; also local tradesmen and each of them have assigned tasks to do. He have experienced putting roofs on, mixing cement and making window and door jambs. Aside from that, he also helped setting floor foundation.
It was a fabulous experience for Emmanuel being able to help the local community in the Philippines. He also enjoyed his stay with his host family. “My host family is very nice and kind. In the evening I played with a lot of children and experienced their way of living. In disaster relief, I got to know very nice locals, Amid, Dante and Gabriel. Life in Philippines is somehow not easy especially for those who don’t have much but what I admired is that they are always smiling and they enjoy and take the time to have a good time. In my country everybody are always busy, and most of people keeps on complaining. It was a really good human experience for me to be in the Philippines. ”, Emmanuel said.
“My advice to the other volunteers is to enjoy all the time they will spend with their family. Sometimes I was tired after the work, but I played for 4 hours with the children and it was very fun. For the disaster relief, my advice is to work a lot towards helping the local people. Sometimes the weather is very warm and sometimes rainy but it was not a problem for me. The most important is to enjoy and find a personal satisfaction”, he added.
Emmanuel Clerc (France)
Disaster Relief Volunteer
Ces 3 mois ont été remplis de belles rencontres et de découvertes enrichissantes. Les Philippines sont un pays qui mérite le détour non seulement pour ses magnifiques paysages mais surtout pour ses habitants qui sont extraordinairement accueillants et gentils. Ils méritent qu'on vienne les aider car ils ne cessent d'être touchés par des catastrophes naturelles. Et malgré cela, j'ai rencontré des gens contents de ce qu'ils ont, vivant simplement, et ayant une énorme reconnaissance pour notre soutien.
Ce voyage était attendu depuis longtemps et il était excitant d'arriver enfin à destination. En même temps, c'est un peu l'inconnu qui nous attend. Qu'il est agréable et réconfortant d'être accueillie dès la sortie de l'aéroport par un large sourire ! Puis l'organisation veille à tout ce qu'il faut pour un bon départ : des explications sur le mode de vie, un petit tour de ville pour situer les principaux endroits utiles, l'accompagnement pour l'achat d'un moyen de communication, l'utilisation du moyen de transport de la ville, le tricycle, comment revenir à l'office, etc.
Suivi des instructions pour le lieu de travail choisi. On peut poser toutes les questions qui nous tracassent et nous voilà rassurés, prêts pour le séjour. C'était très utile et très sympa. Leur soutien a été constant durant toute la durée du séjour.
J'ai eu l'immense plaisir de pouvoir aider Ma'am Cheryl dans sa classe de kindergarden. La journée commence à 8h avec l'équipe du matin. Après la prière et quelques chants, les enfants commencent leurs exercices de syllabation. J'adore les entendre répéter les sons tous ensemble. Pendant ce temps, je corrige leurs devoirs et note celui du lendemain. Les enfants alternent les moments collectifs oraux avec les moments où ils doivent écrire dans leur cahier. C'est ainsi que je peux intervenir pour aider ceux qui en ont besoin ou pour corriger leur travail. Parfois, je prépare quelques tableaux nécessaires à la suite du programme. J'ai pu proposer quelques activités que l'enseignante a acceptées avec plaisir. Etant aussi enseignante, Plusieurs points m'ont surpris, comme le fait de manger plein de sucreries à la récréation, et il était très intéressant de pouvoir échanger sur nos différences. J'ai également pu aller quelques jours dans la classe de Ma'am Doren dont j'admire la pédagogie et la patience qu'elle déploie afin que ses enfants intègrent les notions de base.
J'ai également pu aller enseigner à la classe de grade 4, qui correspond à l'âge de mes élèves. 46 élèves dans une seule classe et des enfants tellement attachants que c'était un vrai bonheur de pouvoir partager un peu de mon pays, un chant et des bricolages avec eux.
Mon passage dans cette école a été un vrai bonheur car les enfants ont de très beaux sourires et vous accueillent avec un 'hi'. Ils viennent pour vous prendre la main pour la porter à leur front ce qui est un signe de respect. Ce geste me touche à chaque fois. Je l'introduirais bien chez nous !
Mon séjour dans ma famille d'accueil était exceptionnel. Je suis leur première volontaire et Michelle, la maman s'est pliée en quatre pour me faire plaisir. Elle est d'une très grande modestie, d'une timidité et d'une gentillesse extrême. Autant dire qu'elle m'a chouchoutée. Comme j'avais rempli ma valise de divers jeux, il était important d'avoir des enfants pour jouer. Ce qui s'est passé a dépassé mes espérances car je n'ai pas joué seulement avec ses filles, mais petit à petit tous les enfants du quartier passaient après l'école à la maison. Quand j'arrivais un peu plus tard, ils m'attendaient et m'accueillaient avec un "Hi Miss Jacquie" et couraient vers moi. Ensuite, nous enchaînions les parties de uno, de triomino, d'élastiques, de badminton. Finalement, nous avons rétabli le terrain de volley en achetant un nouveau filet et une lampe afin de pouvoir jouer après la tombée de la nuit. Ces soirées restent des moments inoubliables pour moi.
J'ai aussi pu passer quelques jours sur le chantier de construction. C'est une nouvelle expérience pour moi et j'ai adoré l'endroit qui était magique, ainsi que le travail. Il était très intéressant de voir comment on peut construire une maison en ayant de simples outils. Quel courage !
Les weekends, j'ai pu profiter de visiter les îles alentours avec les autres volontaires. J'adore ces paysages, ces champs de cannes à sucre, ces champs de riz, les cocotiers, les plages de sable blancs, les chutes d'eau et les magnifiques couchers de soleil. J'ai pu faire de très chouettes connaissances parmi les autres volontaires et c'était très sympa de côtoyer tous ces jeunes venant de pays différents. Il n'était parfois pas facile de suivre leur conversation car les anglophones parlaient vite et oubliaient qu'on puisse ne pas tout comprendre. Néanmoins, il y avait un tout petit groupe de Canadiens et de Français qui me permettaient de m'exprimer avec mes propres expressions. J'ai eu la chance de cohabiter avec deux super volontaires avec lesquels je vais garder contact.
Ces 3 mois dans cette petite ville de Bogo resteront inoubliables. Je garde dans mon cœur tous ces gens, ces enfants avec qui j'ai partagé un sourire, un repas, un jeu, une discussion, un anniversaire, un voyage,... C'est grâce à ces Philippins si gentils, si reconnaissants, si chaleureux et si attachants que mon séjour restera extraordinaire.
Merci pour tout ! Vous êtes fantastiques !
Jacquey Matthey (Switzerland)
54 year-old Lisbet Keis is a nutritionist from Denmark. She came to the Philippines and joined the public health project of Projects Abroad because she wanted to do something that works with health and care since she have worked her whole life dealing with food.
On the first two days as a public health volunteer, she was assigned to a clinic in the city’s health office and worked with TB patients. She wanted to do more than being in the clinic and assisting the local staff so she talked to Maam Billie, the nurse in the city health office if she could do a demonstration on nutrition instead. She have also seen and read the books from the government office that Philippines have a lot of nutritious food but many does not know how to make them. She met the mothers from few of the barangays in Bogo and decided to make a campaign on nutrition through demonstration together with Jasmine, another volunteer from Germany who is a nurse.
According to Lisbet, Projects Abroad could be a big part of the Bogo and the whole Philippines in making a huge difference through nutrition project as it is facing a big problem with diabetes and high blood pressure since most of the people here eat white rice during breakfast, lunch, dinner and eat only few vegetables. She also suggested to Projects Abroad to start a big nutrition project so people may learn the importance of nutrition and to lessen diabetes. As she started and made the campaign on nutrition in a small way, she felt that the mother’s; especially young moms, listened to them and are happy with what they have done as they also tasted the final product on her menu on that day.
Aside from the nutrition project, she also suggested to have a sports project so people will be inclined to having regular exercise and will have a better understanding of the health benefit it brings. “The difference we have made is not a different now. It is a very big surprise for the mommies I have spoken with, which are more than 500 mommies. All the mommies started to taste carrots very little and after how many hours, they ate our salads, raw carrots, moringa and our healthy doughnuts. I have learned that here, money is not the most important thing. I have seen that the mommies take care of their children and I haven’t heard children asked for money to buy something.” “I will never forget all the mommies that I have spoken with as well as Maam Billie for such great help while I’m here. We have a great time!” she said.
While in the Philippines, Lisbet learned that there are so many trikes and laughed about it on her first three days. She felt safe and going out in the evening is not a problem. She admired what Projects Abroad did after typhoon Yolanda. In as much as she would want to visit all the schools repaired through Projects Abroad volunteers she wasn’t able to make it for she lacked of time.
Her advice to the future volunteers is to come to the Philippines with a very open mind and look for what they can do while showing respect for the people around them.
Lisbet Keis (Denmark)
Public Health Volunteer