My name is Christina Dykas and I am a student at Union College in Schenectady, New York. I am studying Biology and Psychology, with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. I have been interested in the field of women's health and specifically the birthing process for a few years now and I have had the opportunity to shadow healthcare professionals in the US. I am in the process of applying to Midwifery programmes in the US. Projects Abroad allowed me to expand my experiences to Arusha, Tanzania, to observe and work in Ngarengaro Clinic and I am so grateful for the opportunity.
My Midwifery placement
At this clinic, I worked with the midwives and nurses and was supervised by a physician. On a daily basis, I worked in the prenatal clinic and measured heights and weights of expecting mothers. When I finished with this, I moved to the infant clinic and helped the nurses there to measure heights and weights and give vitamin A droplets to the babies. I particularly enjoyed interacting with the women in the prenatal clinic. I had no knowledge of Swahili before entering Tanzania and I left with basic conversational skills. These women were so welcoming and even though they laughed at me sometimes, they knew I was trying to learn and they were quick to help.
Outside of the clinic, I participated in the medical outreach trips with the Projects Abroad staff, a physician, and other volunteers. These outreach days were my favourite part of the programme. Most of the other volunteers were from Europe, so it was wonderful to spend time with them and stay in touch with them once we’d all gone back home. We were able to travel to orphanages and help distribute necessary medications, but most importantly, we were able to play with the children and have so much fun. I loved dancing, playing soccer and running around with the children.
The Projects Abroad staff truly made my transition to and from Tanzania much easier. When I arrived, they picked me up from the airport and brought me directly to my host family. They also took me to the airport at the end of the trip. I rented a phone from Projects Abroad and the staff were really great about checking in with me and making sure that I was aware of the outreach days. All of the staff members were helpful in answering my many questions and giving me suggestions on what to visit, where to eat and how to navigate the transportation. For those who do not know, the dala dalas in Arusha are the main form of transportation and they can be very intimidating. They are small vans packed with people and you have to squeeze past people to fit. If it was not for the Projects Abroad staff, I would have had great difficulty navigating the transportation. The Projects Abroad office was also welcoming and the staff let us use the computers, so that I could contact my family.
My host family
Lastly, my host family was so wonderful. My host parents often had young children running through the house that were usually grandchildren and I loved coming home to play with the children. My host parents were very accommodating with meals and always asked if I liked what I was eating. When I was preparing to return to the US, my host mother gave me a kanga, the traditional Tanzanian fabric. She said, "Please give this to your mother back home. From one mama to another mama." This made me tear up. It was such a beautiful gesture for her to think of my family. My host family made me feel safe and like I was part of the family.
This trip really opened my eyes and I could not be happier with how my trip went. Projects Abroad is a wonderful organisation and I highly recommend it to all.