Why Volunteer in an International Hospital?

September 10th, 2012 by lesleytee No comments »

When you’re a young person trying to decide where to volunteer in the world, in can be a really overwhelming experience. You just want to help, but you don’t know where you want to go or what you want to do. Going through the process of choosing your volunteer project can be a bit of a journey, but once you come out on the other side and actually make a decision, you’ll immediately feel at peace with yourself. But if you’re still wondering what sort of work you’d like to do, have you ever considered working in a hospital? It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about being a doctor or a nurse, volunteering in a hospital can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your young life, and it is certainly something worthy to put on your Curriculum Vitae. Here are a few reasons to consider volunteering in an international hospital or medical facility:

You don’t need medical skills to be a volunteer

Medical facilities in the developing world could use non-medical volunteers as much as they need medical professionals. When I was working in Zambia on a community conservation project, I volunteered for a couple of days to work in the local clinic. When I arrived, there was a long line-up of young babies and their worried mothers. There were children suffering from all sorts of medical conditions, from deadly malaria to an itchy skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris. I spent most of the day holding babies and making their mother’s laugh. The doctors and nurses at the clinic said I had such a way with their patients that they wanted to work on creating a volunteer program for individuals to come and keep their terminal patients company. You know what they say, laughter really is the best medicine.

It might inspire you to take up a career in medicine

Two of my cousins became nurses after they went to Africa and spent eight months working in Mozambique and Namibia. When they returned from their trip, they both simultaneously applied to Nursing school and were admitted almost immediately. They were so inspired by the work that they had been a part of that it was important to them to make it their careers.

It looks amazing on a resume

Volunteering for an organization, as we know, isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the resume too! If you’re trying to apply to an ivy league college, or maybe you’re trying to get into a particular grad school, taking time off to travel is one thing, but taking time off to volunteer in a medical facility makes you look like a rock star. Working in a hospital or clinic means that you are dealing with suffering, emotional pain, hope, and any number of highly charged situations. It shows that you are capable of responsibility, you’re capable of empathy and understanding, and you are willing to give of yourself to help others through their pain.

I don’t really think that you need more than one reason to volunteer somewhere like a hospital or a clinic, other than it’s just good to help people.


Consider Volunteering in Malawi

July 23rd, 2012 by lesleytee No comments »

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to Malawi when I was in Africa for a number of reasons. For one, there was a devastating cholera outbreak that was so bad, they were considering shutting down their borders all together, but thankfully, with the aid if international health organizations and NGO’s, the outbreak was managed, and people were given the proper medication to try and fight the disease. But there is so much work that needs to be done there, and a good friend of mine is actually getting ready to head down there in two months. She’s already raised about $25,000 to donate to the organization that she’ll be staying with, and it looks as though her numbers climb every day. I’m very proud of her. I came across a fantastic project that is offered by African Impact, a company that I’ve used in the past when I was a travel agent. They’re an award winning company that has a number of projects going on throughout Africa, Malawi being one of the recipients of their care.

Most of the Malawi population lives in abject poverty. They live in incredibly rural areas where getting resources for anything whether it be to help grow their crops to medical care can prove to be very difficult. But the rural population is in fact provided with free health care through a particular arm of the government that has set up a three level system specifically for part of the population. There are a few health centres across the country that are charged with managing the more common of afflictions and they will often offer maternity services to expectant mothers. These centres will often have nursing staff on hand to help with these, and perhaps one doctor. The more severe cases are referred to what is known as a district hospital where patients receive a higher level of care, including some basic surgeries. If that is not enough, and the patient is suffering from something more severe or life threatening, then there are three central hospitals around the country. One in the North, one in the Central, and one in the Southern region. When you think about it, three hospitals serving a population of nearly 14 million is unfathomable. I live in a city of just over 2 million people and within a ten minute drive to my apartment, there are four major hospitals, four! That’s quite the contrast. And while I realize that I’m living in the city, even if you drive to the more rural places, there is a top notch medical facility that is no more than an hours drive from most places. And if they can’t perform a particular procedure, they’ll airlift you somewhere where they can.

The Medical Outreach and HIV Education project with African Impact offers the opportunity for volunteers to provide what is called Home Based Care. It’s actually an idea that originated from rural villages looking for ways to provide healthcare to their ailing community members. The way it works is that certain health services are provided by what they call “formal and informal” caregivers within the home to “promote, restore and maintain a person’s maximum level of comfort, function and health, including care towards a dignified death.” These are all privileges that we enjoy in the developed world. They’re just services that we don’t even think about because we’ve grown up with them, we’ve come to expect it.

These people don’t have the same privileges as us, though I truly believe deep down that we all have a right to excellent medical care. So if this is something that interests you, visit the project site here, and sign up!


Volunteering in Africa

June 18th, 2012 by lesleytee No comments »

If you’ve never been to Africa, you aren’t living. Truly, it is a place that leaves an imprint on you that you will soon not forget. I’ve travelled all over the world and when I touched down in South Africa, though I never stepped foot on African soil, I knew that this was going to be an experience that would stay with me. And stay with me it did, I actually find myself thinking about Africa on a daily basis. The spectacular scenery, the exotic game animals and the beautiful people haunt me on a regular basis and I’m literally counting to the next time opportunity that I will be able to seize that will allow me to be on African soil.

The first time I went to Africa was a couple of years ago. It was a pit stop on a 25 country trip around the globe, and Africa fell right in the middle of my trip. I was actually travelling with my better half, and our final destination in Africa was Zambia where my boyfriend’s brother lives and works. His brother, David Youldon, actually happens to be the Chief Operating Officer of the African Lion Environmental Research Trust, and organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of the African lion and the education of local people’s on conservation practices. My partner and I spent six weeks volunteering with this organization and it was the most rewarding project I have been on so far. Our time was split between learning about lions and conducting pertinent research on their behavior, and going into the local and rural communities to teach them about lion conservation and talk to them about certain health concerns. The project was incredibly unique because it incorporated so many different aspects of the issue of conservation, and helped me as a volunteer, to understand the obstacles from several different angles. Most volunteer projects will focus on one area of a particular issue, but won’t include the outer scope. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible, and sometimes, a project just isn’t put together with much forethought or planning. This was not the case for our projects.

A day in the life of lion volunteer changed on a day-to-day basis. The schedule was run just like a work schedule, and you worked a six day work week, just as the employees did. Activities in your day would include anything from cutting up donkey meat for the lion cubs, to conducting snare sweeps, to taking the cubs out for long range hunting trips so they could learn how to stalk prey (those were my favourite work days!). On other days, you could be going into town to do the shopping for the camp, or you could be getting up before the sun to hop in a truck to track down Wild Dogs to record their numbers. With such a significant amount of time devoted to behavior training with the lion cubs, it’s the perfect sort of project if you were ever thinking about learning how to become a zoologist. So if that’s something that interests you, consider looking into the program offered by ALERT.

Volunteering in Africa can be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience, but it is not a decision to be made lightly. If you’ve never been on a volunteer project abroad before, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there are several things that you need to know. Unfortunately, there are several organizations out there that are illegitimate and take advantage of both the benefactors as well as those that come from afar to dedicate their time. I will help you navigate your way around volunteer projects in Africa, so if you’re planning a trip to that part of the world, make sure you check back with my blog!

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April 20th, 2012 by admin 1 comment »

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