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Olivia Carlyon - Kenya Physiotherapy  Internship

Olivia's trip to Kenya is a perfect example of what volunteer abroad can offer someone. Combining current studies with hands on experience in the field as well as having an amazing time and meeting great people along the way. Here's how her two week trip to Kenya went.

1)      Why did you choose this particular project?

I chose this project as I am currently studying sports science and injury rehabilitation at university and am hoping to go on and study physiotherapy. I have previously done shadowing with physiotherapists at hospitals in the UK to try and gain experience however, this project would enable me to gain a much more in-depth insight into the role of a physiotherapist as well as allowing me to gain some hands on experience.

2)      What kind of work and activities did you do during your project?

To begin with I was shadowing the physio for the first few days to see how the hospital worked and what sort of treatments were available. After this I was allowed to get involved in the treatment of patients, often the physiotherapists would ask me how a condition would be treated differently in the UK. Some days the physiotherapist would treat the patients and I would write up the notes. I was mainly involved in the outpatient’s physiotherapy department but I also got the opportunity to see paediatric occupational therapy. A lot of children who needed physio would be sent for OT instead as the physiotherapy department didn’t have the specialist equipment to be able to treat them. I found this area fascinating and there was lots to learn. I was also able to accompany one of the physios on her ward rounds, again this was mainly children, I enjoyed this as it gave me a better idea about the facilities available at the hospital and I was able to see a variety of conditions. Everyone at the hospital is extremely welcoming and will help ensure that you have tasks that suit you and keep you occupied.

3)      How did the culture and people differ to home? What were the locals like?

The culture is very different to home, everyone is really laid back (until they get on the roads – then it’s madness). I very rarely saw a car in Malindi, they mainly use tuk tuk’s or motorbikes and that is what I used to get to the hospital. Everyone is really friendly though and will chat away to you and ask whether you are enjoying your time in Kenya.

4)      What was the accommodation like?

I stayed with a host family in Malindi who were great. They were so welcoming and the little girl would keep me entertained in the evening. My room was brilliant; I had a double bed, the room had a fan and mosquito net. The family made my stay so much better than it would have been in a hotel, they were able to show me local sights and even tried to teach me to cook traditional Kenyan food!

5)      What were the staff and other volunteers like?

I can’t really say about other volunteers as I was the only one there at the time but Joel who is the in-country contact is great. He met me at the airport and took me to the project and was really helpful the whole time I was there, he even organised a safari for me.

6)      What was the most amazing moment and what’s your best memory?

I’m not sure I can pick my best memory; I’ll have to have 3! My first would be working with the children at the hospital. Seeing the resilience that some of them have is just incredible, also it’s great because with the children you see the progress they make so much more than you would with an adult so you know that your work is really helping them. On top of that, they are really good fun to work with as you can turn everything into a game! Second would be when my host took me to her friends’ village just outside of Malindi, it was a typical African village with mud huts and outside toilets and just one pump providing clean water for the whole village. All of the locals were so welcoming and all the children followed me the whole way around the village. And my final best memory would be doing a safari in Tsavo east national park. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I was able to see so many animals, the views were stunning.

7)      Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?

The work was definitely worthwhile, you can see that the people you are treating are really benefiting from the treatment and are so grateful. I would have maybe liked to have done some of the outreach work as it was obvious that a lot of people didn’t know about physiotherapy, but the work they did in the hospital was great.

8)      What sort of wildlife did you encounter?

Around Malindi I would regularly see livestock (mainly cows and goats) wandering around unattended but apart from that it was just the odd lizard and mosquitos. On safari I saw a lot more wildlife though, zebras, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, elephants and was even lucky enough to see a family of lions!

9) What were you hoping to learn while on project and have you achieved those goals?

My main aims coming to the project were to learn more about physiotherapy as well as to use the skills I have been taught on my current course. I have definitely achieved these, I covered such a wide range of conditions at the hospital that I feel like I have a broad view of what is included in physiotherapy and being able to get hands on with patients has allowed me to practice and develop my current skills.

10)   Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?

I would advise anyone who goes in the future to get as involved as possible, ask the staff questions or ask if you can try something, as a lot of the time they will have no problem with it. You may want to take something to keep you entertained in evenings as there isn’t much to do around where you stay. Ensure you have clothes to cover up at the hospital as there are a lot of insects and if you go in the English summer time be prepared for quite a bit of rain but most of all have fun, it’s amazing.

11)   What do you have planned next?

Now I am finishing my final year at university and applying for places on physiotherapy courses – I’m sure my time in Kenya will make my application stand out!

By Beth Thomas - Costa Rica Animal Rescue Project

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