Volunteer Review: Elaina R., Medicine in Tanzania
My name is Elaina R.; I am 17 years old and live in Washington DC. I participated in the 2 week Medicine High School Special for students in Tanzania.
One afternoon, after a long day at school, I was sitting at my table looking through the mail when I came across a Projects Abroad magazine. I immediately called my mom to come and have a look at it. I began doing some research on projects that were available and decided on participating in a medical related program; due to the fact that I will be going to university to study medicine. Even though I had an idea of the type of project I wanted to get involved in, I found that the hardest part was deciding on a country to do this project in. Every option presented in the Projects Abroad magazine looked wonderful. However, I finally made a decision to travel to Tanzania. The reason I chose Tanzania was due to a story of a volunteer who had previously traveled to Tanzania.
Arriving in Tanzania
A few months past, four shots later, a whole new wardrobe and plane tickets in hand; I checked my bag into Ethiopian Airlines. I kissed my parents goodbye and boarded the 12 hour long flight that would take me to Adis Abba in Ethiopia. Fast Forward 12 long hours and I’m exiting my plane into a crazy airport where lines don’t exist. Finally, I got onto a plane that would take me to Dar es Salaam. Don’t be scared of the unknown, finding my way to my next plane was hectic but also an experience that taught me how to communicate in another country. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly, but embrace the changes and remember that it is all part of your journey.
When I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I was greeted by a group of students in the same program as me as well as our supervisor, Clemetine Sanchez. Everyone was welcoming, excited and shared funny stories, especially their troubles about traveling. Little did I know that these other teens would become some of my best friends! Even now that we are back home we keep in contact and sometimes they visit.
The Medical Project in Tanzania
My favorite workshop during the trip had to be the surgical workshop. During the surgical workshop we learned about different kinds of surgical techniques. However, my favourite part was getting to learn and practice stitching. At first, it felt awkward holding the tools and my knots were sloppy, but by the end of the workshop everyone’s stitches had become much better. This workshop gave me a little bit of experience and a great idea of what it takes to perform surgery all day.
My most memorable moment was when a mother allowed me to hold her daughter and examine her. Unwrapping the layers of cloth she had been bundled in, I could see that she had a serious infection. After taking her vitals and checking her in, I took her to see the doctor. As the doctor explained to both of us what was wrong with the child and how to treat it. I then realised that I was making a difference in someone’s life.
The doctor handed me a prescription to fill out before the mother and child headed back home. When I handed the mother the medication her smile and thanking words made the long day worth it. We saw over 100 people that day. When we were done with the day, we packed up the clinic and got back onto the bus to be driven home. Even though it was a long day, we all had big smiles on our faces.
By the last outreach everyone had gotten the hang of setting up the clinic, working the stations and getting to know the people. One family was so thankful for the help that they gave me a painting to take home with me. I now have that painting hanging in my room and whenever I look at it I remember the trip that changed my life.
During the evenings when we were all home, we would share stories. I loved getting to hear about their life. They taught us a card game, showed us how to prepare the food and many other things! If you are worried about living with a host family, don’t be! They immediately become a second family to you. I assure you that you will love the family you stay with. They were so welcoming and understanding and even up until today I still keep in touch with my host family.
Weekends in Tanzania
Projects Abroad don’t only provide you with a good medical project but you also get to experience the culture and the country. Getting to hike through the mountains and seeing waterfalls was amazing! To get to the waterfalls we had to climb down a steep hill. Everyone had a good laugh when I slipped and fell down on my buttocks. The hike showed us amazing views but it was also fun because we all got to hang out together and joke around. During the weekend safari I took stunning photos. I did not expect that the animals would be so close or that I would see so many.
On the last day in Tanzania we got to go shopping in the Massai Market. Thank goodness I had extra space in my suitcase because I definitely brought home a lot. More than just shopping, it was a chance to experience a new environment. One thing I learned to do was to negotiate prices for certain items. Do not just agree to the first price the shop keeper gives you!
My Final Thoughts
Projects Abroad exceeded my expectations. My Advisor was so kind and understanding; I still message her even a few months after the trip has ended. I am meeting up with the friends I made in Africa next summer, and am thankful for meeting them. Although my parents were worried at first, they are extremely happy for the experience Projects Abroad had given me.
Someone once told me that when you travel you never return home the same person. This trip has changed me for the better and I am so thankful to have gotten the chance to be a part of Projects Abroad. I came back home with a new view on life and a desire to travel back to Africa. I hope that you choose to take on this adventure.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.