Katherine F. – Nursing Elective in Tanzania
On my first day in Tanzania, I was given an orientation around the area. I went to the mall, the Projects Abroad office, and the hospital placement. I noticed how friendly people were; everyone was saying ‘mambo’, which is slang for ‘hello/how are you?’ There was a relaxed feeling about Tanzania in that people weren’t in a rush. Everything was ‘pole pole’ which means ‘slowly slowly’. I liked this feeling, as it’s the complete opposite to how people are in London. Most people seemed happy and grateful for the small things in life, which was really refreshing.
The weather definitely took some getting used to! It was very hot and dusty! I was wary about the crime upon arrival in Tanzania, however staying in groups and using a small money bag tied around my waist made me feel more secure and therefore I didn’t have any negative experiences. I was surprised at the developing areas I saw, for instance a new mall was being constructed and the mall had a Pizza Hut in it, something I was not expecting! I quickly realized that although there are very rural parts of Tanzania, the city also shows signs of development, which I didn’t expect to see. I really fell in love with the city and was glad I picked Dar es Salaam, as it was only a short walk away from the beach!
My Nursing placement at Mwananyamala Hospital
My placement was an unforgettable experience! I was placed in a government hospital, which enabled me to see the true lack of resources that the disadvantaged community experiences. I spent most of my time in the emergency department and surgical ward. I was also able to observe two surgeries in theatre, which I was really pleased about as this was one of my learning objectives. The staff were very welcoming and willing to teach me how they manage with little resources.
Due to my experience as a second year student nurse, I was able to escalate concerns I had about patients and empower staff and patients with the teaching I’ve experienced in the UK. The English language is taught in schools, therefore the language barrier was not a huge issue. However, some people didn’t speak English, therefore I would use Google translate on my phone to communicate with some patients. I felt privileged to be able to listen to their stories.
Staying with a host family in Tanzania
The host family was very welcoming and friendly! There was a mother and daughter as well as two domestic workers who did the cleaning and cooking. There was always a variety of food provided to suit what you may be used to eating in England and food that is part of the Tanzanian culture. They always went to extra efforts to make sure I was safe and enjoying my time there.
I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked as I was only there for two weeks, therefore I had to squeeze a lot into every day! Another volunteer lived with me in the house and was great at showing me around and giving me advice on my trip. On the other volunteer’s last night, we went out for a meal with the host family, which was a lovely way to end our experience. I still speak to Mama Asha now that I’m home and she always says I have a second home there! Not all companies offer a host family experience; I think this is what makes Projects Abroad unique.
Traveling around Tanzania on the weekends
I was really interested in going to Zanzibar, so I asked the Projects Abroad team about it and they put me in touch with three other volunteers who were planning to go that weekend. It was a two-hour ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar and we stayed two nights in a hotel for a good price.
On our first day in Zanzibar, we went on a boat trip to explore Prison Island and Nakupenda Island. Nakupenda Island was stunning; it had the clearest sea and whitest sand I’ve ever seen! Prison Island was much bigger and had a hotel on it. The island is known for their giant turtles so I was excited to see them. Some of them were over 100 years old and we were allowed to feed them! That was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget! The next day, we went to the markets, which allowed us to really experience the local culture. The environment of the markets was very rural, which was interesting to see. Zanzibar was well worth the trip!
The next weekend, two other volunteers and I were keen to go on a safari. We spoke to the Projects Abroad staff and they put us in touch with a company. The weekend trip was all inclusive of a safari, hotel stay, food and a car ride there and back. We were lucky enough to see a lion hunt a zebra! And have a lion walk right up close to the Jeep, which was scary and amazing at the same time! It was so beautiful to see animals in their own habitat. I don’t think the African experience would be complete without a safari. It was truly an unforgettable experience that will stay with me for life.
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.