How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA? My experience with the US ABV staff was always flawless. My phone calls were always answered or returned in a timely matter, and Sarah was very professional and one step ahead at all times. I felt as though ABV was organized enough to put me in a safe place and flexible enough to let me have my own personal volunteer experience. 10/10!
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country? I didn’t see Nelson Mbise very much, but it was explained to me that if I ever needed him he would be available. Fortunately, no emergencies or problems arouse, so I didn’t need much guidance or support from him. His sister, my host, Elizabeth was there to support me when I had questions or concerns.
What was your favorite memory of this trip? My first delivery. Helping the nurses of the Clinic literally CATCH babies as they were born and getting to know the staff are priceless memories I will always keep. I enjoyed my daily commute to work and saying hello to all the neighbors and kids on the street, and coming home and relaxing.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced? Lack of power and no internet was frustrating at times. While there, the electricity company had been going through changes and we were without power for days on end sometimes. It was a difficult adjustment, but nothing truly serious. Toward the end of the trip the clinic was very overcrowded with volunteers. I had already been there 6 weeks and was very invested in trying to improve the ward for the staff, but when new volunteers came in I was asked to leave and find new things to do. There is so much work to be done in Tanzania, and I think it would be better for everyone if volunteers were spread out among other locations in town. The local staff as well were feeling crowded and it seemed as though volunteers were either taking over or just milling about, watching and taking up room and using resources.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for? I wish I had practiced swahili more. At the clinic it was the sole language, and it was frustrating to not be able to communicate to the doctors and nurses that I too was a medical professional and knew what to do. So i ended up being pretty quiet and working with my hands instead, which wasn’t so bad. I know they appreciated my help with deliveries and cleaning and maintaining the ward.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Come without any expectations. Go with it, don’t complain about the little things, and enjoy truly getting to know the people that live there.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
The two months I spent in Tanzania were some of the best if my life. I didn’t know what to expect going in, or how I would be able to use my nursing skills to help in this area, but I was pleasantly surprised every day in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The country itself is beautiful; cornfields and coffee farms, a view of Mt Meru from my backyard… everywhere I turned there was beautiful landscape and enormous, luscious greenery. The people of Tanzania were truly some of the most gracious, generous, humorous, and kind people I have ever met. From neighbors, to complete strangers I was greeted respectfully and warmly everywhere I went. The friends I made who worked harder and made less than I did, who had tiny homes and large families, were always the first to extend their hand and offer friendship, food, or anything I needed. I learned so much from the people who lived there. Although life for them is unspeakably difficult, they seem to live their lives with a kind of joy that people who have everything in the US can’t seem to achieve. From the food, to the music, to the strangeness of it all, I had a wonderful and fulfilling time. It was a very hands on experience for me, and I am grateful to the doctors and nurses who helped me get my bearings and showed me how they did things (however different) in the clinic. They welcomed me in, put me to work, and always thanked me for my efforts at the end of each day. It was shocking to see just how little resources the clinic had, and how behind the times some of the practices are, but the staff work very hard and there was no question that they were doing the best they could under the circumstances. The experience made me appreciate all the things I was without for two months–hospital supplies, sanitation, reliable power, drinking water, my friends and family… But more importantly it gave me a look into a culture that is all about helping one another and living your life, however hard, with joy in your heart. My host family and coworkers taught me to slow down my pace, enjoy the moment, laugh at myself, and give whatever you have to offer, because we are all in this life together, we have to look out for one another.
from Volunteers Abroad Reviews and Feedbacks http://feedback.abroaderview.org/2012/08/29/grace-volunteer-medical-in-arusha-tanzania/