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Rheo Smith - Midwifery in Sri Lanka

With local staff

My name is Rheo, I am 19 years old and I went to Sri Lanka independently for two months to gain experience in midwifery, independence and gain valuable life experience.

My time in Sri Lanka is the best thing I have ever done, and I have memories which I will treasure forever. The volunteers in Sri Lanka at the time I was there were amazing; everyone there is in the same situation and wanting to make the best of the experience we have there, so regardless of languages we all got on really well!

I was fortunate enough to stay within Panadura, where I stayed with a real great family; The Peiris family. The food was great, and I also couldn't have asked for better people to have as 'roomies' in the house, I managed to have 9 different volunteers stay in the house with me over the two months in which I was there; and I have and always will have fond memories of them.

My host family made me feel so welcome, and my mum and her partner came out for the last two weeks of my volunteering out there and the host family invited them round and made them feel so welcome too, both of my families spoke about me and how they were both proud of me and the achievements I had done; I was really embarrassed, but it was so funny to that my English family and Sri Lankan family got on so well too, and that felt extra special.

At my placement

During my time in Sri Lanka I was a volunteer at the Kethumati women's hospital in Panadura. I loved every minute there, and managed to learn so much about midwifery. The nurses in the hospital were amazing, and I still miss them very much. I was able to assist in 32 births; 16 of both sexes; couldn't have been better. I was able to independently prepare the babies after birth and assist in the aftercare of the mothers and babies; it was incredible! I miss being able to experience a birth every day now I'm back in England and I now realise how privileged I am to be able to have done what I did in the hospital.

I remember my first birth; on the 2nd of July at 9.12am and it was a baby boy; I was so amazed at what I had witnessed and felt so privileged to be present at so many births. On my final day I was able to cannulise a patient and inject a sedative into two women’s arms; It was scary but great too as I had no experience of any hands on experience before Sri Lanka. I learnt so much relating to midwifery and the experience taught and shown me things that I thought I should never experience unless I was a fully qualified midwife; I miss the nurses and Midwifes a lot, especially Somalatha; She was amazing.

Not only did I learn a huge amount about midwifery; but I also learnt so much about myself as a person. I had the most amazing time with so many volunteers; and I keep in touch with some of them still a lot; without them the trip wouldn’t have been as memorable; and I miss them all very much.

New friends

With some of the volunteers we decided that we would climb ‘Adams peak’ as it was renowned for breathtaking views of the sunset on arrival in the early morning. After climbing over 7,000ft and four hours later we reached the peak. I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done, and after having several minor asthma attacks I wouldn’t of been able to make it to the peak without the help of my amazing friends out there, they encouraged me and supported me in a way that even a best friend of several years would struggle to do, and although It was very rainy and the sun came out in seconds rather than minutes of breathtaking views I thought ‘what a waste of time’ but it really wasn’t as it was such a great achievement and I had the support of many special people around me; and I guess it was just our fault for climbing it ‘out of peak time’, 6 months later I still have the string bracelet a Buddha put around my wrist before my venture and It hasn’t moved off my wrist since; I look at it every day and laugh remembering the climb, and the memories I have.

For me Sri Lanka will always hold very fond memories throughout the whole of my life; I achieved more than I thought I ever could, met some of the best people ever and although it was hard missing everyone back at home, I'd go back tomorrow for another two months or more if I could.

Volunteer group at the beach

Since my arrival home I have had a tattoo which for me signifies my amazing experience in Sri Lanka; it says; ‘ What does not kill me only makes me stronger’ but it is written in Sinhala, I love it so much and I show all my friends and family it here in England; and share my stories of Sri Lanka. I miss Sri Lanka and think about it every day. I plan to go university next year to become a midwife and undoubtedly when I qualify I will be on my way back to Sri Lanka to volunteer again.

Thanks to Projects Abroad for all the support they gave me before, during and after; especially Elise!
And thanks for the memories....

Rheo Smith

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