Rosemarie, nurse and soon-to-be doctor from Germany completed volunteer placements through World Unite! in León, Nicaragua, as well as in Moshi and Mwanza, Tanzania. Here you can read about her experience volunteering at a Hospital in Moshi, Kilimanjaro.
Why Moshi and Tanzania?
I’ve been wanting to volunteer in Tanzania for a long time, because I had heard so much about this country. I had tried to apply for a nursing placement before through other organisations but strangely may application never worked out. From another volunteer I got the contact information of World Unite! and got a fast and detailed reply about my future placement straight away! Moshi, Kilimanjaro, really spoke to me as a location.
To apply for my placement, I only needed an English CV and a letter of reference from my medical school. To prepare for my placement I used the information provided on the World Unite! website and on the information platform for participants. The information materials included information about vaccinations, living standards, public transport, general information about Tanzania and my place of work, among others. When my placement was confirmed, I only had to book my flight and paid for my service package. Considering the extensive services I got on-site and before my trip, booking my trip through World Unite! was totally worth it!
Arrival to Tanzania
I flew into Dar-es-Salaam (World Unite! recommend me to get an inexpensive flight to Dar first and to book a national connecting flight from there to Kilimanjaro). Make sure you allow a few hours to get to your connecting flight on-time, since getting the visa in Dar-es-Salaam can be quite time-consuming. I only had one and a half hours between my arrival in Dar and the next flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport and it was not enough, so I had to take the next flight five hours later. Of course, I informed my World Unite! coordinators in Moshi so that my pickup from the airport could be postponed.
When I finally arrived in Kilimanjaro in the evening, World Unite! had sent a driver to the airport to pick me up and to take me to my accommodation, where I met my local coordinators Adelina and her husband George.
When Adelina gave me a hug and welcomed me to Tanzania, I suddenly felt safe and at ease, considering that I had just arrived in a country that was totally new to me!
Adelina showed me around the accommodation and made sure I was comfortable. The next morning, Miriam, the other coordiantor, picked me up from my shared apartment to show me around the city. We had breakfast together and she gave me an introduction to Moshi, helped me to withdraw my first local money (Tanzanian Shillings) and to set up my phone with my local SIM card. She also showed me how to use the public transport system (Daladala = public mini bus) and explained which bus would take me home and which one to take to get to the hosptial. My shared apartment was located conveniently close the Daladala station KDC and it took me only about 15 minutes to reach the city center and my work place.
Our shared apartment had three bedrooms and a kitchen and was located on the property of the owner, Mama Rose, and her family. Each room had its own bathroom with a western standard toilet, a small sink and shower. However, the water pressure was often very low and instead of using the ceiling shower head, we used the additional hand shower, which ultimately worked quite well. Whenever there was no water, it was worth asking the very helpful owner or her family members for help, as it may be that the water had accidentally been turned off and the problem was easier to sovle than expected. There were two gas stoves in the kitchen, where we could easily prepare our own meals so we did not always have to eat out. Due to the heat it was recommend to us to store everything edible in the refrigerator, including fruits and vegetables.
On a side note: My boyfriend came to visit me during my placement in Moshi and he was welcome to stay at my accommodation too.
My Placement at the Hospital
The Hospital I worked at was a Regional State Hospital and the central point of contact for sick people or emergency patients that can not be treated at the small rural dispensaries and clinics, or for patients who cannot afford a private hospital. There are many different departments and I was allowed to do weekly rotations. During my 30-day placement I was able to work in four wards: The pediatric ward, the maternity ward, the department of internal medicine and the HIV clinic.
How much you will learn and how much you will be allowed to do as a volunteer or intern, largely depends on your level of activitiy and how much initiative you show, just like in Germany. On the other hand, I recommend you to ask for help or to say „no“ if you are expected to perform tasks that exceed your competencies as a student and could harm the patient. For example, I was once present when a woman was giving birth to her first baby and the doctor asked me whether I wanted to assist him. I knew that the doctor might trust too much in my abilities that I did not have yet, rejected the offer and prefered to shadow only.
Looking back, I was very happy about my decision because this birth turned out to be one of the most difficult I have ever seen and it was a mental and physical challenge for everyone involved – the mother, the doctors and the child.
It might happen that you, as a Western student, are very much trusted by the medical staff. Just make sure that you only perform activities that you already know how to master and that you would also be able to do in your own country.
Communication with the doctors and nurses at the hospital was easily possible in English, but very few of the patients had English language skills. That’s why it is very helpful to learn some Swahili before you arrive or to take a Swahili course on-site, so that you can also exchange a few words with the patients or at least ask some simple questions, such as „How are you?“, „How is your child?“, „Where does it hurt?“.
Getting Around in Moshi and Tanzania
Moshi is quite small and the best way to get around the city is on foot. If the distance is longer, you can also take a Daladala. Even the connections to rural areas and the villages outside Moshi are quite good. Moreover, there that run from the central bus station in all directions.
In Moshi there are several small and one large supermarket, as well as many cafes and restaurants, offering local and internationl food. It is highly recommended to buy fresh food such as fruits and vegetables on the street market, the taste is incredible!
Moshi also has an old-fashioned and shut down train station that which is nice and quiet place where you can have drink or just hang out.
Moshi is also a starting point for many Safaris: I spent a day in Ngorongoro Crater and it was well worth it! Don’t miss out on Zanzibar – it’s just a short flight away! I spent the last ten days of my trip there, exploring the markets and narrow streets in Stone Town and the white beaches of Nungwi in the north.
What the staff members of World Unite! offered to me was more than just a regular service. Miriam, Adelina, Katharina and George were there around the clock, if I needed help or had any questions.
When my roommate once did not feel well, Miriam and Adelina did not only take her to the doctor several times and looked after her on a daily basis, but also bought plenty of fruits and vegetables on the market for a quicker recovery. In addition, there were weekly non-binding meetings with all World Unite! volunteers and staff to share experience, to ask questions or to simply chat and have coffee.
I had a great time in Moshi and in Tanzania and would totally do this trip again. The placement also went well and was very interesting for me both in medical as well as in personal and cultural terms. World Unite! was very supportive and my secure base, that I could always rely on.
Wishing you all the best for your time in Tanzania!