Sarah Harnett, a UL Student Nurse from Co. Limerick, decided to volunteer with Nurture Africa and she travelled to Uganda to help out. This is her experince.
'From my volunteering experience I gained life changing knowledge regarding a totally different part of the world in comparison to ours. I volunteered as a student nurse in the town of Nansana just outside Uganda’s capital city Kampala. Nurture Africa works alongside local schools by sponsoring their education and has a medical centre in the town for the people of the community which provides live saving treatment for HIV effected children and adults. While on my placement I got to experience first hand what children who are diagnosed with HIV must go through daily just to survive. I got to experience their treatment options such as regular check-ups, medication plans and life style changes that must be followed once diagnosed. I also gained knowledge and experience with treating adults who have been battling HIV for years. Nurture Africa provides treatment for saving the lives of so many young and old people in this community. It provides children with and education and hopes and prospects for their future. It also provides parents and adults with ensuring they can maintain a sustainable lively hood that will prevent poverty and crime in their homes.
I decided to volunteer because I really wanted to try and make a difference to a small community. I love the idea of being able to teach skills that I have been thought and have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn to other people who may not have been so fortunate to have received. I also really wanted to experience another culture so different from ours and just see their ways of living in comparison to my own.
I selected nurture Africa because I felt that their student programme was the most suitable for me as it allowed me to get first-hand experience of nursing in another country to our own. I also choose this organisation since I felt they did so much good for a small community and provided a range of services that we would be allowed to participate in.
While I was in Nansana we got the opportunity to go out and test for HIV in the community. We had the opportunity to go to remote parts of the community to people who may not be able to reach the medical centre and test for HIV. The nurses and doctors are so bombarded with patients coming into the medical centre each day that they do not get to go out for an entire day and set up mobile testing in such remote parts of the community. This allowed a greater number of people to get screened and tested so they could if needed receive the lifesaving treatment they needed.I do think that more staff or a particular day devoted to this day of testing once a week would be highly beneficial to help treat as many people as possible. This is a very service that is provided by Nurture Africa and by detecting and raising more awareness about HIV it may prevent future cases in the long run.
As a student nurse I was giving the opportunity to be allowed to go in to parts of the community where we would set up a testing station for testing HIV. We got the chance to interview people who wished to be tested and had the opportunity to register and test these people. I was also very fortunate to be allowed to sit in with the councillor when they disclosed the results to the person.
My experience of volunteering did change my previous perception. I feel that everybody at some stage of their career should volunteer and experience what it is like to treat and help others. It was very fulfilling to see peoples delight when they were told they were negative for HIV or when we got to show them our skills and teach them how to do it. It was a wonderful experience and without hesitation I would recommend anybody to go and experience it.
The majority of our tasks were carried out in groups. We had to operate HIV stations when testing as teams where one/two people would interview and register people, two more would test and one person would sit in with counsellor.
I think that this experience has changed my entire outlook on not only my future career but also my lifestyle. I think it was very worthwhile experience as it gave me knowledge in certain aspects of health care that I would never have gotten in Ireland such as testing and treatment for HIV and malaria, TB and other diseases that are not as common here as they would be in Uganda.
I also feel that I will appreciate little things much more than I would not have previously. It made me value how lucky we really are and how privileged we are in this country.'
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