Along the dusty, bumpy East African roads outside Iringa in the central highlands of Tanzania are traditional villages where life is lived in startling simplicity. Arriving in Ipalamwa in the Ukwega Ward, two teams of physical therapy students from Regis University Global Health Pathways group found a way of life vastly different from their own, a community struggling to care for its children, and a path to inner discovery and service. Following are the highlights of their Global Volunteers Service Programs with Global Volunteers in 2018 and 2019.
The year following the first team from the Global Health Pathways concentration from the Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions at Regis University served in Tanzania, the second student group eagerly picked up where their colleagues left off. Both teams participated on the Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Program in the Ukwega Ward, teaching mothers basic and effective strategies for vastly improving their families’ well-being. Local project leaders engaged each team for two weeks in parent workshops, home visits and assistance at the health clinic. The students greatly appreciated the opportunity to serve where most needed – sharing their newly acquired skills – while discovering more about themselves.
While Covid-19 supplanted the students’ 2020 service program, Regis University is actively planning for a third Global Volunteers adventure in 2021, citing the advantage of continuity between student teams for both the local project leaders and faculty coordinators. The most recent student group shared their best memories of their hands-on experiences in the Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC) and RCP workshops as they engage upcoming volunteers for the university’s next service adventure.
Hands-on Service From Day One
Immediately following their on-site orientation, the students were put to work in assignments that matched their specialties. Physical therapy student Nicole Anne Reed examined children and babies for movement and cognitive abilities, and signs of development delay. When noted, she said she was able to provide suggestions to ICG staff and ideas for workshop interventions with the parents. Lucas Glomb said he worked in a similar capacity counseling caregivers and midwives on physical therapy services. “I worked with the mothers and their children to promote proper and healthy development, and helped diagnose unique conditions such as Parkinson’s.” He reflected, then added, “It made me realize how resilient humans are.”
“It was a great experience providing education to people in the village and physical therapy services in the clinic, as well as connecting with the local community.”Catherine Mariani, Regis University Global Health Pathways student
The students emphasized that the needs are great in rural Tanzania; life is a day-to-day struggle to survive off the land. Medical supplies are inadequate, food and nutrition are too often insufficient, and access to quality education is limited. Catherine Mariani said that despite the hardships, “It was a great experience providing education to people in the village and physical therapy services in the clinic as well as connecting with the local community.” Rachel Alvidrez said her lifelong goal to provide medical treatment to under-served communities was met in Tanzania. “The people I served helped me show gratitude for the other people and blessings in my life,” she said.
Eleni Mayes added she was hoping to have an impact on the community, but was unprepared for the impact the community would have on her. “I joined the program primarily to provide physical therapy services at home visits. But in doing so, I saw I take much in my life for granted, and that the sum of the individual things I previously considered necessities in my life now is trivial.”
“The Tanzania Program fulfilled a lifelong goal to provide medical treatment to under-served communities. The people I served helped me show gratitude for the other people and blessings in my life.”Rachel Alvidrez, Regis University Global Health Pathways student
A Culture Lesson Through Acts of Kindness
Catherine Mariani worked with IGC medical staff to care for a patient with right-sided weakness and decreased sensation. “I was impressed to see this patient improving in less than a week, and there is still potential for him to continue getting better,” she remarked. By immersing themselves in the community through full-day work projects, she and the other students were able to fully appreciate the challenges the community faces over the two weeks of the program. Rachel concluded, “The most notable contribution I feel I made was providing education to the village women about family planning and contraception. I know I made a long-term impression on their lives. An experience such as that can change your perspective on your own life.”
“The most memorable moment was being able to provide care for a patient with right-sided weakness and decreased sensation. We worked with the doctor at the clinic to help him get the appropriate care. I was impressed to see this patient improving in less than a week and there is still potential for him to continue getting better.”Catherine Mariani, Regis University Global Health Pathways student
Further, by working side-by-side with local people, the group learned about local history, culture and values. Most mentioned resilience, determination and gratitude as qualities they admire in those they served. “The people were incredibly sweet and grateful for whatever help they can get,” said Joshua Holland, adding, “They’re hardworking and depend on agriculture. But they don’t complain about what they don’t have.”
Hannah Price agreed. “I was surprised by the joy the local people expressed, despite not having much,” said Hannah. “By meeting (the women) in their homes, we had the opportunity to focus on mutual learning instead of just providing a service. In that, it was a much more give-and-take exchange.” Further, they were impressed by the local people’s politeness, respect and modesty, which form the foundation of the country’s harmonious national culture.
“It was very rewarding to travel and provide volunteer work. The most notable contribution I feel I made was providing education to the village women about family planning and contraception. An experience such as that can change your perspective in life.”Rachel Alvidrez, Regis University Global Health Pathways student
Are you a health care professional or student looking to volunteer abroad?
Physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, lab technicians, dentist and health facility administrators are all needed to treat patients and share their expertise in Tanzania once programs resume. If health care is your chosen path, then volunteer service programs abroad are an amazing place to start, refresh, or add to your career! Learn more here and contact us to register!
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