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Projects Abroad is one of the largest international volunteer organizations in the world, sending 10,000 volunteers abroad every year. Each volunteer who joins one of our...
Projects Abroad medical volunteer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Submitted by Taylor Anderson - Chicago United States | September 19, 2016
I was a medical volunteer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for 4 weeks prior to applying to Physician Assistant school, and the only regret I have is that I did not stay longer! This experience was life changing. I learned an insurmountable amount of medical and cultural knowledge, made friends who I will have in my life forever, and cannot wait to return. In fact, I am in the midst of planning another volunteer trip with Projects Abroad in the spring.
Throughout my preparation and travels to Tanzania, the Projects Abroad staff was always available for me to contact, especially when I had flight delays. When I landed in Dar es Salaam, I was greeted by a staff member from Projects Abroad and driven to my host family's home. I instantly felt at ease, despite my trepidation, since I had never been in a host family situation. I was always comfortable, well taken care of, well-fed, hydrated and constantly learning about the culture and people surrounding me.
The Projects Abroad staff in Tanzania went above and beyond. On my first day, Godwin, my savior from Projects Abroad, went through the steps to take public transit to arrive at my medical accommodation, Sinza Palestina Hospital. Godwin also helped me learn how to get the money I needed, have my cell phone and wifi work, and constantly was in contact with me to make sure that everything was running smoothly. Even if there wasn't a problem, the Projects Abroad office was available for me to stop by and discuss anything, even if it was as trivial as what type of bug spray I should purchase.
I spent Monday-Friday, from approximately 9:30-3:30 at Sinza Palestina Hospital for the next 4 weeks. Initially, I was the only volunteer in minor theatre (minor surgery), which was a bit daunting, but I was quickly immersed in the culture of the hospital. I was able to observe, ask as many questions as I could, and assist with as many procedures and patients as I wanted. The staff was friendly, accommodating, and grateful for my assistance. In fact, I still keep in contact with my supervising physician, Dr. Maganga, months after I have returned back to the United States. Within the first two weeks, I learned some key Swahili phrases that helped put patients at ease, learned that high-fives are universal, and ventured to the mall to find stickers. I always kept the stickers in my front scrub pocket and gave one to each pediatric patient I saw. I suggest that any future volunteers bring something like a sticker or stamp to help put smiles on the children's faces! After my second week, I was joined by 2 other volunteers at the hospital and as each week passed I gained more confidence in my abilities to connect with patients and perform the medical procedures that I would not have had the opportunity to perform in the USA.
On my final day, the medical volunteers went to a local orphanage to perform health checks. We started off playing with the orphans, who grabbed our hands and asked our names. They showed off their cartwheels and asked if I could do any. As a former gymnast, I said yes…not realizing that the next hour would be spent doing gymnastics skills on concrete that I hadn’t done in years. I was sore for a week, but their smiles helped me ignore the pain. We were separated into stations where each child was weighed, measured, had their temperature taken, and had their teeth, eyes, mouths, skin, and hair checked for any obvious abnormalities or fungal infections.
Beyond the medical aspect of the trip, Projects Abroad helped my friends and I arrange trips for the weekend in order to gain the most out of our experience. We traveled to Zanzibar for a weekend and spent 3 days at the Selous Game Reserve on a safari. These trips were monumental in showing me different parts of Tanzania, and allowing me to explore the country outside of a purely medical setting. The friends I made in my home, at the hospital, and at Projects Abroad team dinners allowed me to make friends that I will have for the rest of my life. In fact, one of my fellow volunteers (a European who now lives in New Zealand) is traveling to the states soon to visit!
I had worried about my safety being a tiny, American female, but I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Projects Abroad did an amazing job making me feel welcome and appreciated. I gained more than I could have ever imagined from this experience. It truly changed my life and I miss Tanzania constantly. I recommend Projects Abroad, Tanzania, and the experience in general to anyone interested in volunteering abroad.
Public Health- great experience, highly recommend
Submitted by katied - Santa Clara University | September 14, 2016
I would highly recommend volunteering with Projects Abroad. The in-country staff was amazing. They were incredibly helpful. This program is slightly more expensive than other programs but it is worth it. I did the public health project. We worked in the poor communities around Phnom Penh, along with several other communities around Cambodia. I mostly lived in the apartment in Phnom Penh which was very clean with excellent food. It was very fun living with all the other volunteers. I also stayed with a host family for a week which was a great experience, seeing how the Khmer people live by actually living with them. For another week I stayed with the conservation group on King Island. That was a different experience and gave a good all around view of the country. At times the scheduling could be a little disorganized but it worked out in the end. The program managers that we worked with in public health really helped us get hands on experience and teach us about medicine. You have to really invest in the program and you will get out what you put in.
Program: Projects Abroad in Cambodia
Thailand marine conservation
Submitted by nathanelyasi - Cal Poly Slo | September 09, 2016
My time in Thailand was truly an experience to remember. Although I only volunteered for the short time of 3 weeks, which I wish I could have extended, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the people, sights, and sounds of Thailand. I truly have no complaints with respect to the project, the staff, the food, but I do have a couple concerns with Projects Abroad in general. On their website they recommended a 2 week minimum stay, but in all seriousness even three weeks isn't a long enough time to make a serious contribution to the conservation efforts. Although I still conducted reef health surveys, I was not able to begin the fish identification because of the time constraints. I wish the website would have made a 3 or 4 week minimum at least. Other than that, and the hefty price for the trip, I was seriously amazed by how smooth and efficient the team in Thailand was. It really felt like staying at a local's home in the area. If you do choose this program, which I recommend, make sure to do it for at least 4 weeks & start saving up now!
Projects Abroad responded to this review September 12, 2016 at 11:53 AM
Thank you for your feedback! We agree, the longer you stay in your project, the bigger the contribution you are able to make for it. However, we also welcome volunteers who have more complicated schedules and who are only able to volunteer for shorter periods. This is why we are flexible and have our programs available for shorter periods, in this case starting at 1 week, but definitely recommend longer stays whenever possible, especially in this kind of projects.
Physical Therapy in Nepal
Submitted by Julia - University of Miami | September 04, 2016
One thing you need to remember before volunteering in physical therapy in Nepal is this: it is not the same type of experience you'd gain by volunteering somewhere in the West! The beauty of volunteering in a place like Nepal is to better understand Nepalese healthcare, treatment style, and approach to medicine in general. Although I did learn a lot about physical therapy practice, I don't think what I learned will help me become an effective physical therapist in the States. Instead, getting to know the therapists, speaking with the patients, and understanding the situation of the Nepalese people is what will make you a better healthcare provider when you get home-- and that is why volunteering in Nepal is an invaluable experience.
Projects Abroad responded to this review September 07, 2016 at 2:29 PM
Hi Julia! Indeed, medicine in general is quite different in the East to what we are typically used to in he West. That makes the Physical Therapy placement in Nepal that much more challenging and interesting, so we are glad you enjoyed it and that it has helped you with your career back home. Thanks for the feedback!
My orphanage work in Mongolia
Submitted by Isobel Jensen - Brigham Young University - Idaho | August 29, 2016
I had an amazing time working in Mongolia through Projects Abroad! It was the most amazing experience of my life so far. I worked in a clinical orphanage for four weeks, and I had regular contact with the Projects Abroad staff in the area who helped me in adjusting to my home and work life. My host family was extremely friendly, and they always wanted to show me around and were always willing to answer my questions and tell me about their culture. Projects Abroad always had at least one activity with all the volunteers per week, and being able to interact with other volunteers regularly made the experience even better! I met volunteers from all over the world and I was able to learn almost as much about their different cultures as I did about Mongolian culture.
I will always love and miss the people and culture of Mongolia. It was a beautiful place full of some of the kindest people I have ever met. I absolutely fell in love with the kids I took care of, and I'll always remember them. I definitely recommend Projects Abroad to anyone who wants to volunteer abroad and have a life changing experience!
Projects Abroad responded to this review September 07, 2016 at 2:33 PM
Hi Isobel! We are glad you had such a wonderful experience volunteering in Mongolia! It is indeed a beautiful country with a very rich culture so it's great that you had the opportunity to experience it and share it with other volunteers from the rest of the world! Having a friendly and safe host family is definitely one of our priorities so thanks for sharing. Thank you once again on behalf of all the kids in the orphanage you were able to help out!