Getting on a plane to go anywhere can be nerve-wracking for some people. Getting on a plane to travel nearly 10,000 miles to a Sub-Saharan African country by yourself, is something else. This summer I went on the biggest adventure of my life. I spent three weeks in Tanzania, where I knew nobody and had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be the best three weeks of my life. I was staying in a town called Morogoro, about four hours from the capital Dar Es Salaam. The main purpose of me going was to spend time in the regional hospital to learn about healthcare in Africa, along with spending time in a less developed country. I spent every morning for three weeks in the hospital, and I saw things I would have never dreamed about seeing sat in my biology lessons. I saw multiple babies being born, c-sections, African A&E, malaria patients, HIV testing, and so much more.
It really opened my eyes to how different healthcare is across the world, and made me appreciate what we have here in England. So many people complain about the NHS, but I know I will never say a bad word about it again. In Tanzania the A&E department don’t have any equipment to help people who are in a critical condition, so if you go into shock from being in a car accident, they have no way of helping you immediately. In Tanzania they struggle so much with infection after operations that there is an entire hospital ward for these patients. Sepsis (infection) is so common, that one day I saw a woman being opened in the middle of the ward after her c-section wound had become infected. Her abdomen was completely open in the middle of a room, and she had no anesthetic. I will never forget her face as she lay open in that room. But it wasn’t all bad in the hospitals. Everyday these doctors were saving lives in conditions that no English person would dare go in. They were miracle workers. There was one day where there was a girl who was 17, my age, in the hospital. She had collapsed and nearly died because of sickle cell anaemia. But the doctors managed to save her life, and she was so grateful to them.
Everybody was so grateful there. The time this became blatantly obvious to me was when a patient came into the emergency room in my second week. He came in with a broken femur, after having in a motorbike accident whilst trying to raise money to pay for university. It broke my heart when he started crying in the middle of the department, as he realised the money he had been saving to go to school would have to be spent on his medical treatment. And when I asked the doctor how much it would cost she replied ‘400,000 Tanzania Shillings’ (approx. £120). £120 is nothing to us, but that meant everything to him. So I, along with a few others on my placement, decided to pay for his treatment. And when he found out he repeatedly said thank you, despite the language barrier and how much pain he was in.
The people in Tanzania were truly incredible, the children especially. I had never realised how much someone could make me laugh when we cannot speak a word of the other person’s language. I visited a Masaai tribe (they are the common tribe across Tanzania and Kenya who live almost entirely off the land), and the children were fascinated by the large camera that I was carrying around. They would walk up to me, put their face at the bottom of the lense and pull silly faces whilst trying to get me to take a picture.
It was incredible seeing how much we all laughed at the photos when I showed them to the children. I also saw lots of peculiar things in Tanzania too. Living in the South East, as you are driving along, you might see the occasional badger, fox or squirrel as you pass. Africa takes this to another level. On the drive to safari, you would look out of the window and see giraffe walking alongside the road. Or a family of baboons out looking for food. Or even the occasional elephant and its baby grazing on the trees, a phenomenon I don’t think I would ever get used to.
So yes. Getting on the plane is terrifying. I have never been so scared in my life. But it was worth it. I made so many amazing friends and have amazing memories that I will cherish forever. I cannot put into words how brilliant it was, the only way to explain it is this. As soon as I got off the plane and met my family, the first thing I said to them was ‘I want to go back to Tanzania’.
By Charlotte (Year 13)