SHOULD YOU VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA?

August 1st, 2012 by INMED

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This month I am writing from Angola in southern Africa where I work each summer. Volunteering here requires a significant personal, emotional, and financial investment. Is it right for YOU? Let’s dissect the outcomes you would expect from a term in Africa and explore whether such a venture is in your future:

 

You will save lives. True Or False?

 

Answer: True – but only once you are prepared. Enormous are the obstacles to providing life-saving treatment in low-resource, cross-cultural settings. Language limitations, tiny pharmacies, absence of laboratory, and vastly different understanding of disease are only a few barriers. For these reasons INMED personnel are considered students and we emphasize mentoring relationships with experienced faculty at INMED’s forty International Medicine and International Public Health Training Sites worldwide. You will indeed save lives once you’re prepared.

 

You will treat exotic diseases. True Or False?

 

Answer: True. You may well be inspired over face-to-face encounters with tropical diseases: malaria, schistosomiasis, dengue fever, onchocerciasis, Chaga’s disease. But you’ll also confront more familiar diseases in their very advanced stages: tuberculosis, malnutrition, osteomyelitis. Negotiating these medical care challenges will likely be very high points in your career.

 

You will get to know the world. True Or False?

 

Answer: True – a small, but significant piece of it. Effective work in an African community requires site-specific learning about customs, language, expectations, and how conflicts are resolved. The reward for this focus is personal relationships of depth and substance. By contrast, those who make a habit of regularly jumping to new locations reap friendships that are only one centimeter in depth.

 

You will become inspired. True Or False?

 

Answer: True. Serving as an international healthcare volunteer will be initially invigorating. Over time, it will also reveal the epic challenges faced by humanity. Expect to become inspired. Your journey could well be a pivotal moment in your life, transforming how you view poverty and culture, and casting a vision for your entire future. It certainly did for me.

 

You will be appreciated. True Or False?

 

Answer: True – but not in the way you anticipate. Returning international healthcare volunteers universally report disinterest from their land-locked friends and colleagues. By contrast, globally-minded individuals will light up at the report of your service and encourage the exercise of your virtues. But the most appreciation received will come from the humble people whom you personally assist. Savor the moment whenever they say thank you.

 

Should you volunteer in Africa, or at another locale in need? You may find the allure compelling, but be unclear where to start. The INMED staff and I would be pleased to assist you through the INMED Diploma Programs programs. Naturally you will have questions, so please Contact Us and let’s explore whether such a venture is indeed your future.

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