My experiences with Project Abroad in Tanzania and Kenya
As I was receiving numerous emails from Ana, Lidia, Ma Cyndie, and phone calls from Mulbah concerning my trip to Tanzania and Kenya, I was also receiving calls from my school about my graduation. At that point, I needed to focus harder to ensure that everything went right. Three days after the graduation event, I then realized that I was traveling alone, which was my first time to board a flight alone. I immediately began to determine how I was going to navigate the terminals beginning with Robert’s International Airport. As we drove to the airport that morning, I said to myself, all I need is to ask security personnel, or other passengers, to read directions and signs, and to listen to terminal announcements. With this in mind, I was confident that I was going to make it!
As soon as I entered the terminal at Robert’s International Airport, the security behind me closed the door and called his fellow security to help him lock the door. While in the process of locking the door, another passenger came trying to rush through the door, but the security said she was late, and I was the last person. She tried to force her way through, but the security didn't allow her. She was grieving with tears dropping down her cheeks. I felt sorry for her as security rushed us through. The process was so fast as they were asking passengers to hurry up since the flight was ready and about to leave. After boarding, I took a deep breath and said thanks to God and my ancestor’s spirits for their blessings. Sitting by me was a Kenyan man who works for the UN in Liberia. He was going on a break to meet his family. I quickly made friends with him, showed him my boarding tickets, and told him I was going to Tanzania and needed help. I asked him whether I was going to change flights in Sierra Leone and Ghana because the flight numbers were different. He looked at them and said I only have to change flights in Kenya. Feeling relieved, I finally relaxed. As soon as we arrived in Kenya, I looked out for transit signs, listened to the announcements, and found my flight number and country on the departure boards. Unfortunately, while changing flights, a security lady broke my laptop by dropping heavy luggage on it during a security screening.
Upon arrival in Tanzania, one of Projects Abroad staff picked me up with a Japanese girl from the airport and took us to a mall to get a SIM card for our mobile phones, and to do a foriegn exchange of our money. After then, we were taken to our prospective homes. Early the next day, another staff by the name of Jackie J. Johnson came and picked me to go to the office, and then to the hospital for an introduction where I was going to be working during my stay. On our way, she asked me whether I had breakfast, and I said no. While driving, she began checking for tea shops and made a stop for us to eat. After, we went to the office and then to the hospital (Bochi). At the hospital, she introduced me to the human resource manager who was happy to see an African volunteer. He quickly shocked my hand and said Karibu (welcome), thinking what to say, Jackie quickly intervened and told me to say, ansante sana (thank you). I immediately said ansante sana in a low tone and we all started laughing. From his office, he took me around the hospital showing me various departments. At the end, he asked me whether I wanted to go with Jackie and come back the next day, or if I wanted to stay longer. I decided to stay and joined the other volunteers in the dressing room, Teresa Stiliano and Sebastian Buchardt from Germany and Denmark.
The next day Jackie had made an arrangement for a Bajaj Driver to take me to the hospital at 6:30am and to take me back home between 4-5pm. When he came, we exchanged contacts so that I could call him to pick me up when I was ready. That day, I wanted to be more involved than observant, so I joined the doctors and nurses in the treatment room where they were willing to allow volunteers to be involved while they give instructions. Like any other department in a hospital, there are several procedures to follow. The first procedure is to read the information on a patient’s script from the doctor before you perform the task(s). Next, you let the patient know the task you are about to carry out, and then you ask him or her to sit or lay in the right position and be ready for the task. Before touching any medical equipment, you have to wear gloves to execute any procedures. Basic tasks to perform in the dressing room include normal dressing of wounds, giving or removing stitches, compression of wounds to remove pus, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, as I spent more time in the room, I learned all the procedures and tasks to which the doctors and nurses would leave me to tend to on my own while they went for lunch or a meeting. The more they left me, the more I began to build confidence in myself and some patients also began to regard me as a doctor or nurse, many of which personally thanked me for my services.
I got additional experience in the pediatric department, where I met a pediatrician who did his studies in Cuba. He makes me understand what pediatrics is about and the challenges associated with it. One of the challenges he talked about is that the patients (children) often cannot explain well what is happening to them. As a result, you have to ask their parents or guardians to explain symptoms to the child and draw a conclusion from it, along with an examination and your pediatrician knowledge.
After learning as much as I could from pediatrics, I moved next to the injection department. In this department, I experienced and learned amazing things. Like any other department, this department is governed by a set of rules and these rules are standardized in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO). The most important of all includes the 5 Rs: Right Patient; Right Dose; Right Route and Right Time. You have to remember these rules so that you can be safe and avoid life-threatening mistakes. It is in this department that I learned to give my first IV injection. I also learned about other types of injections to give and to what degree they can be given.
From the injection room, I went to the surgical department. My first day here I nearly fell to the floor while looking at the caesarean section. Anyway, I quickly came to myself sweating heavily. The surgeons and nurses asked me whether it was my first time to witness caesarean section and I said yes. They said it is normal, it usually happens to most people who witness for their first time. However, throughout my stay in the department, I didn’t experience it again!
Culturally, Tanzania, Kenya, and Liberia have many similarities, as they are all African countries. They also have many differences, one of which is the Maasai culture. Having one national language is another cultural difference between Tanzania, Kenya, and Liberia. Backing babies is another difference. Women in Tanzania and Kenya back babies by grossing the lapper on one shoulder, while Liberian women tide the lapper under their arms above their breasts. Another difference is the food. On the other hand, the livelihood of families and their interactions remain the same.
To conclude, both culturally and medically I experienced amazing things and acquired new knowledge. Knowledge achieved through personal physical experience rather than in abstract ways is always better and easier to retain.