Krista Filek - Medicine in Ghana
Travelling abroad and doing volunteer work in a different country is something that has always appealed me. I figured I would do it when I had the time, money and experience to help others. I was just your typical college student working toward a career in healthcare (as a physician assistant). One day I randomly started googling “volunteer aboard opportunities” and the Projects Abroad website popped up. I saw how many different projects and destinations there was and I knew that this organisation would allow me to volunteer abroad any time I wanted.
I got a job at a local restaurant, worked every weekend and saved every penny until I had enough for the trip a year later. Travelling to Mongolia not knowing anyone there or even speaking the language was exceptionally intimidating; particularly because it was my first time leaving the US and my first time travelling alone. Upon arrival, however, the friendly Projects Abroad staff made me feel welcomed and at ease.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad provided me with a volunteer advisor that helped me in my preparation of my trip. It was so helpful that I was able to send her personal emails with any questions I came up with. They provided me with a checklist of things I should do leading up to my trip and I got nervous when I saw that applying for a visa was one of them. Things like travel visas were so unfamiliar to me, but Projects Abroad provided me with all the information and supplied I needed and it was such a smooth process.
I found myself looking through the information that Projects Abroad sent me about Ghana and my trip daily. I was so nervous and excited. When I finally arrived in Ghana and met a member of the staff at the airport I had never been so excited. I stayed at a host family in Cape Coast and it was perfect. I had my own space with the other volunteers, but was still able to experience the daily life of a Ghanaian. The morning we arrived we went straight to the Projects Abroad office and had our orientation. They had our work schedule planned during the weekdays and fun activities planned on the weekends. The staff was great in working with us and accommodating to our wants and needs.
For example, on one of the Saturdays they had planned for us to visit the Castle and go souvenir shopping, but we expressed to them that we had heard about the National Park and would like to go there. They were more than understandable and set up a trip to the National Park instead. We were even able to still visit the Castle! After work and on the weekends we had free time to do whatever we needed at the house. When we would want to go through the market both the host family and the staff were always willing to assist and accompany us if we were uneasy about going alone.
However, at the end of the trip we became so comfortable with the culture and the community that we had no problem going out alone. It was a great feeling knowing that there was always assistance if I needed it. I never-not for one second-felt unsafe during my trip. The staff and host family were so protective of us volunteers and it was an amazing feeling knowing how much support I had.
My placement in Ghana
Not only did we have lots of fun during the weekends and during our free time, but the work week was just as amazing. We did four different things for our work; community medical outreaches, leprosy camps, orphanage visits, and days at the Cape Coast teaching hospital. During the community medical outreaches we went to different local communities and provided free health care screenings. There were always over 50 people just lined up and willing to wait for their health check.
Each community was so different, some more poor than the others so it was cool to see all the differences. At the leprosy camps we provided wound care to the individuals with deformities and wounds. At the orphanages we gave them health talks about various topics such as teen pregnancy, oral health, and malaria awareness. At the teaching hospital we were able to choose a ward to stay in and observe their health system. It was amazing to see the differences of the hospitals from back at home and across the world.
One of my favourite things about Ghana were the people. Everyone was so sociable and friendly and it was so refreshing. My last day in Ghana I experienced the most bittersweet feeling I had ever felt. I was happy to be going back home but was just as sad about leaving this amazing place. I made so many friends, learned so many things, and had the best experiences that I will never forget. Looking back, I cannot believe that I was ever nervous about going. Ghana will forever hold a special place in my heart and I only wish to go back someday.