Lena Finucane - Medicine in Sri Lanka
I lived in Sri Lanka for the first seven years of my life and had visited a couple times since then. I had always dreamt of going back and helping in any way that I could. Little did I know that making the decision to volunteer in Sri Lanka with Projects Abroad was going to become the best seven weeks of my life.
After being picked up from the airport and taken to my host family, I quickly got into the hang of things and spent the first three and a half weeks of my stay helping in the Tsunami Camp, Montessori School and the last three and a half weeks assisting in the Panadura Base hospital.
My Care Project
Waking up to rotti and papaya every morning (which soon became my favorite Sri Lankan dish), my roommate Camilla and I got into our daily routine of walking to the tsunami camp, passing numerous tuk tuks and cows on the street and opening the school gate to see ten kids running towards us, which was by far one of the best parts of the day.
We helped with the younger kids in the morning and taught the older kids English in the afternoon. We developed a connection with the kids, which was one of the many reasons it was hard to leave. It’s crazy when you see what a different lifestyle they live in the tsunami camp, but they were so happy and willing to learn which was really nice to see.
My Medicine Project
My last half of the trip, I volunteered in the Panadura Base Hospital where I had the opportunity to shadow doctors in different wards of the hospital every week and take part in medical camps on the weekends.
This medical volunteering experience was as eye opening as helping in the school. While there are many differences between the Panadura hospital and the ones I’ve experienced in the United States and Sweden, I was impressed by how well they worked with the resources that they have and how effective and empathetic the nurses and doctors are.
I was also happy to get to participate in medical activities at schools and orphanages where we would make up skits and try to promote a healthy lifestyle to the kids. Since I was going to nursing school following my volunteer assignment, I wanted to see and experience first-hand what it was like to work in a hospital there. My time with the Panadura patients and staff made me realize how I would love to go back there and work if I ever have a chance to do that.
My Amazing Experience
After working during the week I usually planned a trip with the other volunteers over the weekends, which is really affordable in Sri Lanka. Since it’s such a compact country you have the chance to see a lot in a small amount of time (even if you might have to stand on a bus for 4+ hours…) All our trips were some of the greatest adventures I’ve ever been on and made all of us realize that you shouldn’t have any fixed expectations when traveling!
Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country whether you want to go up to the rain forest for a weekend, to the beach, or climb Adams Peak (so worth it!). Sitting on a train and seeing mountains beyond mountains was one of many incredible trips we took.
The seven weeks I spent volunteering in Sri Lanka was by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had from the volunteering I did, the friends I met, experiencing the local culture and the adventurous weekends; they’re memories that I will never forget.
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