Jonathan La Crette - 2014 Program Participant

Flags at the East African Community building in Arusha, Tanzania

East African Community in Arusha,Tanzania. The East African Community is basically a trade agreement between Uganda,Tanzania, Kenya and two other east African countries

What attracted you to apply to become a medical volunteer in Africa?

To see diseases that are uncommon in North-Western Europe. To see my ethnic homeland of East Africa.

Why did you choose Elective Africa?

The package seemed reasonable and comprehensive, especially since it has been a long time since I traveled to the area.

What was your favorite part about volunteering in Tanzania? 

The locals.

In what ways did local staff support you throughout your program?

Elective Africa offers a very comprehensive service. Elective Africa offers two organized trips to Safari, Mt Kilimanjaro. They also organize travel to and from the hospital and local attractions. They had a local visit us regularly to see how we are doing and to give us a tour of the area. We had the same driver who was friendly, knowledgeable, and reliable. The local representative of Elective Africa was a man in his twenties who spoke great English and is also friendly and knowledgeable.

What did a typical day consist of?

Morning Swahili lessons, hospital, lunch at local cafe. Evening I would study and workout. Nighttime, nightclub or a restaurant.

What was your favorite part of your program, outside of your medical placement?

My Swahili lessons with a local teacher who worked in an internet cafe.

Front of the East African Community building in Arusha, Tanzania

My flatmates standing outside our day trip to East African Community building in Arusha, Tanzania

What was your housing like in Tanzania?

It's a five story flat in a complex of four other five story flats. It was very Western and family friendly, with gates and security guards. You could go on the roof to dry clothes and skip/workout on the roof, which I did!

What is your most memorable moment from your time in Tanzania?

Working in the Emergency department in Mt Meru hospital on a Friday night and treating a patient with a hyena bite to the head!

What should every volunteer know about Elective Africa’s program in Tanzania?

  • You will be safe.
  • There will be plenty of Westerners.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for hands on clinical medicine.
  • Most people speak English!

Medical volunteer in Tanzania at Mount Meru Hospital, Pediatrics Department

Me doing a Cardiovascular examination in the Mt Meru Hospital, Pediatrics Department

What is the number one reason you think students should volunteer abroad?

To help broaden your understanding of different cultures, countries, and health systems. It helps you to mature as an individual, I think.

What is one thing every volunteer must bring with them to Tanzania?

A white lab coat and loads of disposable gloves. Bring insect repellent.

What are the best ways for volunteers to immerse in the local culture?

  • Go to local restaurants and not the westernized ones.
  • Go and buy from the local stores and speak to the hospital staff.
  • Attend the local church on a Sunday.

What individual you met during your trip impacted you the most?

My local swahili teacher. He was 25 and a teacher at the local university. He introduced me to the local scene for young people in the area.

In what ways has volunteering abroad changed your life?

1) Made me feel like the media and news really does paint Africa in a falsely negative light.

2) Makes me feel like I need to know more about East Africa myself instead of going by what I see on TV.

3) Makes me wanna learn Swahili as my Mum is from East Africa...I will!

Medical volunteer in Tanzania with the Mount Meru Medical Staff

Farewell photo with the Mount Meru Medicine team

How has volunteering abroad affected your career goals?

Helped me decide that medicine, and not surgery, is for me. Helped me realize that I want to volunteer as a doctor once I graduate, around the world.

What is one thing you regret not doing during your time in Tanzania?

I would have climbed Mt Meru or Mt Kilimanjaro but too expensive for me!

If you were going to volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

South America and Kenya.