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International Volunteer
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

With work experience being a key element of all healthcare training working with Maventy has given me a special opportunity to contribute medical practices in a third world setting. Such experience is both very relevant and important for me as I wish to pursue a career working abroad as a humanitarian aid doctor.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

The application to work with Maventy involved several stages: 1) Complete part 1 of the online application by writing a brief summary of your experiences and motives 2) Read through the volunteer hand book, information about Maventy and Madagascar and ask questions via email 3) Complete part 3 of the online form. This involves more detailed answers to various questions about your desire to volunteer 4) Complete and sign volunteer declaration forms and upload them online, provide a reference and upload it and organise medical indemnity insurance

Main responsibilities

- Assisting in child malnutrition assessments involving measuring: height, weight, mid-upper arm circumference and head circumference
- Assisting in the follow up and treatment of severely malnourished children
- Assisting in mobile malnutrition assessment clinics in nearby villages
- Assisting in the dispensing of drugs
- Teaching local staff relevant medical concepts such as: germ theory, vectors and transmission of disease and work place safety
- Teaching local people about healthy lifestyles such as: healthy eating, exercise and hand hygiene
- Taking part in weekly team meetings and mini MDT discussions

Typical day

A typical day in Madagascar starts at around 06:30 with a bowl of vary sosoa (a watery rice porridge) over a communal breakfast table whilst we discuss any events that happened overnight with the local health workers.

At 07:00 me and the doctor on duty would normally do a quick round of the current inpatients and discuss their condition / make changes to medication. Towards the end of the round I would usually leave and catch up with the pharmacist to help him dispense the days drugs.

Anytime from 10:00 a small malnutrition clinic would be held and me and three other members of team would head out to a nearby village to do malnutrition screening. We would typically have lunch at 12:00 either at base camp or in the village.

In the afternoon around 14:00-15:00 we would return to base and support the health workers monitor the children and administer treatment (typically an exact amount of Plumpy'Nut given to the child carefully in a syringe).

For the rest of the day I would be assisting the doctors to complete there jobs or I would be doing my once a week teaching session for the staff or local people.

In the evening the team would get together again to have dinner which was usually vary maina with laoka (a kind of fluffy rice with various sauces) along with small amounts of meat and vegetables. This was always accompanied by ranovola (hot water and left over rice from the bottom of the pan) although occasionally we would also have some Malagasy rum.

To round off the day I would usually share stories with the other volunteers or would return to the hospital for a late evening shift once or twice a week.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

My time in Madagascar was incredibly enjoyable and insightful. It was absolutely amazing getting to know the other volunteers, both long and short term, who where incredibly welcoming and willing to share their diverse range of experiences.

Getting to know the local staff, especially the translators, was also a true joy. Their kindness and unfailing optimism is something I will never forget and always strive to emulate. They took me under their wing and gave me a true sense of the bright and beautiful culture in Madagascar.

Challenging aspects

The nature of the placement, the vulnerability of the children and the reality of the care available was all extremely sobering and I often felt challenged on this placement. The lack of resources really struck me as a sad and complex addition to clinical decision making.

It was also incredibly challenging trying to put all the things I had learnt in my first three years of medicine into actual real life practice. Although I wasn't particularly in a decision making role I still felt I had a lot more responsibility than when on placement in the UK and that took time to get used to.

Finally, seeing tiny infants and children on the teetering on the verge of death was hard and sadly I learned the difficult lesson of not getting attached too quickly.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

I used a huge number of skills learned on my course ranging from the simple like head circumference measurements to the more complicated like clinical assessments and cannulation.

Leadership and problem solving were also particularly key as things often changed quickly and flexibility was vital. Teaching was also an essential part of the placement, both in formal and informal settings.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

This placement has without a doubt opened my eyes to the reality of humanitarian work and, although it has been challenge throughout, it has definitely spurred me on to continue pursuing a career in international health.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Follow what you want to do and don't be deterred by difficult application processes.

Other comments

I would like to thank Sheffield University for this fantastic opportunity.

Form completed: 07 Sep 2017

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