In November of 2011, I had the unique opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream of volunteering in Africa. Departing for Nairobi Kenya on November 3rd, I joined a medical team fostered by A Better World Canada. Our team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists travelled to the remote jungles and deserts of Kenya to reach communities seldom touched by modern medicine.
Seeing a combination of young and old, both in orphanages and outpost clinics, I followed a simple plan – do what you can to help and expect that you’ll learn at least as much in return. Having never been to Africa and never having participated in development work, I had much to learn.
Although many of the musculoskeletal conditions we encountered in Kenya were similar to those in Canada, our treatment plans needed to be unique. In these communities, there is no opportunity to provide ongoing care over the course of several weeks, so we had to squeeze as much benefit as we could into every single encounter with each patient. Whenever possible, these educational exchanges were conducted with local medics and caregivers so that ongoing care could be provided once we left.
Perhaps what I’ll remember most will be the faces of the children I met along the way. Africa is rich in children and their smiles are full of hope and joy. Despite having so little, they are grateful for what they do have and they make the most of each moment together an opportunity to grow and learn.
I was extremely fortunate to have this wonderful opportunity to reach out to other people. Even if only briefly, they allowed me to become a part of their lives and share a laugh and a smile. I know that we were both richer and wiser because of the exchange, and I’m confident that my experiences in Africa have helped me grow both personally and professionally. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in exploring Africa either as a volunteer or tourist. It could even be the pivotal experience you are looking for.