Nathan Wong - Medicine in Tanzania
My trip begins with the desire to adventure again to the often overlooked continent of Africa. Previously I had been given the opportunity to help some friends start their life in rural Zambia and because one of these friends was a Zambian native I was able to experience the country in the best way possible; how the locals do. I would be wrong to group all of Africa as one similar group of nations, but my previous experience inspired my curiosity and desire to explore more of that beautiful content.
I’m a 19-year-old kinesiology student aspiring for a career in healthcare with a pretty big soft spot for travelling. When I was informed of the chance to go to Dar es Salaam and volunteer in a hospital the decision seemed like a no brainer.
My Medicine Placement
My placement was at a local, government run, hospital called Mwananyamala. In my four week placement I was given the opportunity to work in various wards including, prenatal, major surgery, outpatient treatment, minor wound care, laboratories and the labour ward.
The staff at the hospital was very friendly so long as you were willing to try to speak Swahili with them. They were all open to teaching you various skills so long as you were also willing and eager to learn. For them, it seems, they would be willing to teach you as much as you were willing to learn. One word of advice would be to be brave! Every new skill I was taught was refined by the presence of doctors, nurses and other local medical students and interns.
During my placement I did my best to build friendships with the other volunteers, but it was almost more fulfilling to do so with the local students. The local medical students were so friendly and knowledgeable I often found myself working alongside them over other volunteers.
As far as the most interesting wards go it’s hard to pick one over the other. In each ward you have the opportunity to get hands on experience, which eventually translates into long term knowledge about every essential aspect of a hospital. I was given the opportunity to learn stitching, burn care, taking blood samples and many other amazing, irreplaceable skills.
One of the most memorable wards would have to be the labour ward. With something as fragile as a new born baby I definitely was feeling the pressure when asked to assist in the delivery of a baby girl. A local medical intern and I took charge and helped the delivery go along smoothly. I don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life but that experience was one of the most rewarding ones in my lifetime. Gertrude (3.2kg) changed my life and she won’t even grow up knowing!
My Tanzania Host Family
My accommodations were pretty darn fantastic. The family I was placed with were so friendly and helpful I instantly became attached to them. Four weeks with them and I was having such a hard time saying goodbye. They would never hesitate to give me directions and tips on where to visit and how to easily get there. Several weekends they even took me and my friend out with them to experience real Tanzanian music!
They really became a family to me and it was further emphasised when I became seriously ill for three days. My host mother constantly called from work to check up on me and when they returned from work they offered me all sorts of things to try to make me feel better asking if I needed extra meals or drink telling me not to worry about paying them back. My host family was so good to me and they are definitely one of the reasons my experience was so amazing. I miss them dearly and I can’t wait to go back to Dar es Salaam to visit them.
The staff at Projects Abroad is amazing. There’s no other way to describe them. Each and every staff member I encountered was friendly and helpful. They would always be able to answer any of my questions and concerns and I easily became friends with all of them. When I was ill one of them quickly came and drove me to the clinic to see a doctor and after my appointment they checked in on me constantly to make sure I was alright.
Every week they would invite my friend and me out to do leisure activities like playing volleyball or performing a little karaoke. They even organised an outreach to a local school where volunteers were given the opportunity to give basic medical check-ups to young children.
Additionally, they had several good contacts for seeing Tanzania after my four week placement. I was given the contact of a local safari company that charged amazing prices to go on fantastic safaris around Tanzania. The staff at Projects Abroad was fantastic in helping me along during my placement. They were a very crucial part of such an awesome experience!