Volunteer midwife Tanya Zuliani has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.
I spent a month working as a midwife & specialist public health nurse with RIPPLE Africa in June 2017.
Mornings started early (around 5am) with a wake up call from the monkeys jumping around on the roof!
I’d usually watch the sunrise then do a quick boot camp with some of the other volunteer team. Then it was off to start the day. I’d cycle either to the hospital or road block where I’d catch a minibus (this was weather dependant!) and spent most of my volunteer time between Kande & Chinteche maternity hospitals.
In the hospitals, I worked in the labour ward and antenatal clinics, as well as sexual health clinics, malaria screening services, and child health clinics.
Labour ward is worlds apart from home, with very little working equipment or resources. Improvisation is generally the order of the day so it gave me the opportunity to really home in on my skills. The women were just amazing… incredibly stoic, positive, and inspirational…that will stick with me for the remainder of my days! The staff there do the best they can in difficult conditions, and their hard work & has seen maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as maternal to neonatal HIV transmission rates drop remarkably. It’s a huge step forward!
Once a week I’d work at the child health clinics which I loved… always busy and fun, with women singing, and children wrapped in brightly coloured Chitenge dangling from scales that hung under a tree.
I also worked with the healthcare teams getting out to local villages to give the measles/rubella vaccines to under 18’s (this was a national UNICEF mission running while I was there). I’ve never vaccinated so many people so quickly! I saw it as a huge credit to families in local communities who aim to make sure their children get access to healthcare, and also to the community healthcare workers who work tirelessly in their provision of health promotion/education at the child health clinics.
Another area that I became involved in was RIPPLE’s children’s disability groups. These were led by a volunteer physiotherapist and a RIPPLE employee. Due to issues such as malaria, accidents, and obstetric related trauma, there are a large number of children with both physical and cognitive developmental delay. I was able to help here with assessment and provision of relevant health education.
At home I’d have referred many of these children into specialist care for treatment, but in Malawi this can be tricky due to a lack of specialist resources. It’s for this reason I believe that this project has the potential to make a huge impact on the future of local children and their families. Without RIPPLE’s group they would really have no other support.
Some of the other healthcare volunteers and I also wrote a school health programme for future volunteers to continue in RIPPLE Africa’s local schools…including sexual health, mental health, physical health etc.
To me it seems there are so many large cultural changes required in Malawi and RIPPLE Africa’s bottom up approach to local level healthcare, education, and the environment showed real tangible progression, and that’s what really struck me about this charity. RIPPLE Africa are well respected in the area, and the locals were always so friendly to us. Anyone volunteering will soon pick up the Chitonga language because people are always keen to talk to the volunteers…you can’t cycle more than a few hundred metres/get to another bus stop/ or even go for a run without some banter along the way!
Evenings were chilled with dinner and chat with the other volunteers, which was always a lovely way to wind down after a busy day.
Anyone thinking of giving volunteering a go with RIPPLE Africa should take the leap and do it. I was full of self doubt before I went but as soon as I arrived at camp, the staff and other volunteers made me feel like family and I knew straight away I’d be ok. It was a brilliant experience, I met fantastic people, and I left wishing I could do it all again!
Palivisuzu, Ama Tanya x