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Volume 1, Issue 3  October 2014
It was a magical Summer

There is something about summer that is implacable; a magical quality that we pursue in the sunlit days and warm nights and that we recall with longing when the seasons compel us to move on. But if we could capture it, freeze it in a frame, cap it inside a bottle; what would summer feel, taste and smell like?

The essence of summer is breaking free from the daily routine, doing something that someone like you, living where you do would not often do. It's about walking the unbeaten path in search of adventure, checking some lines off that bucket list. Its about the tastes of the season, bright fruit bursting with freshness. Summer is all about listening to easy melodies as you head to some sunny destination. So take the trip in this special summer issue and get caught up in the African rhythm.

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Summer In Africa

“We had the opportunity of viewing various conditions at their advanced stages that we only read about in class\"

Anna Conetta and Steven Haakenson, Physician Assistant students from the Community College of Baltimore County spent 8 weeks in Arusha, Tanzania at the Mt. Meru Regional Referral Hospital. They shared some of their experiences with Elective Africa.

Why did you decide to do an elective abroad?

Coming to Africa gave us the opportunity to see diseases in advanced stages that we would not be able to view back home. Due to the cool climate in Arusha we found more of winter diseases, such as Pneumonia and colds.

How has it enriched your elective experience?

Working in an African/Tanzanian hospital has given us an appreciation of the resources available to us back home. In the States we would have had everything we needed to take care of patients but resources here were minimal. For example Equipment for Ultra Sound, CT scan and other simple items necessary in the labs were not available. We saw doctors having to rely on their knowledge of diseases in order to diagnose.

What are some of the differences you observed in medical practice back home and in Arusha?

  • Healthcare providers spend more time with the patients in the US unlike in arusha. This is because in Africa, the few qualified personnel in public hospitals take care of high patient numbers.
  • Back home, patients are treated first even if they do not have the money. Here, patients have to pay for their treatment before even seeing the doctor. 

What are some of the rotations you went on?

We spent most of our time in Internal Medicine and Surgery. We once got to assist in placing a spinal intravenous line under the guidance and supervision of the medical officer.

What tips would you give to any student thinking of doing an international elective?

  • Ask, ask, ask; never shy from asking your supervisors about any disease or conditions you have noticed, or if you would want to assist in a procedure. Have an open mind. The medical system in Africa is quite different from the one at home so have an open mind when approaching the challenges that you’ll definitely face.
  • Have your resources with you like a reference book or a medical app that can assist you in identifying a condition or a disease.

What did you enjoy most during your time with Elective Africa?

It was great to learn a different way of life: the culture, cuisine, and the beautiful scenery were an amazing experience. In Arusha, we spent a lot of time hiking and visiting different game parks. We got to see the Big Five except the leopard, which is hard to track.

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Meet Phabian, Tanzania\'s Head of Operations

Phabian Mjarifu –Assistant Operations Coordinator Elective Africa in Arusha, Tanzania. Phabian joined EA early 2013 after working as a trainer with the Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

Today, he spends his days running operations in our second busiest location. If you have applied for placement in Tanzania, he is your go-to guy for more detailed information about living and working in Arusha. Once you arrive, he’ll be there to pick you up from the airport and show you the ropes. He’ll introduce you to your supervisor at the hospital and assist you with all payments and paperwork.

When asked to describe his town, Phabian says “Arusha is a very beautiful city with quite a cold weather, a lot of hardworking and hospitable people who welcome everyone no matter the tribe or country.”

Arusha sits at the foot of Mt. Meru in Northern Tanzania. Its prime location makes it a setting off point for safaris to national parks and game reserves in the northern part of the country.There’s more to the place than a stop on the road to somewhere else. Arusha is lively and full of surprises. The Arusha National Park is a must visit as well as a trip to the coffee plantations to roast, grind and brew your own cup of coffee.

As in any other community, the people of Arusha must contend with unique challenges. Phabian say that poverty due to high unemployment levels is a problem in the area. Poor Education is further a source of societal pressure. “Some people can afford it and others cannot.” And to others, like a few members of the Maasai tribe, other activities like acquiring and herding cattle are given priority to schooling.

Affordable healthcare is also a challenge. Elective Africa places its students in various hospitals under the health department of the Arusha Municipal Council: Mt. Meru Regional Referral Hospital, Kaloleni Hospital, Ngarenaro Hospital, and Levolosi Hospital.

According to Phabian, locals enjoy eating ugali samaki (corn meal cake) and fish, which is his favourite meal. When asked what he likes to do in his free time Phabian said, “My favourite sport is Basketball. I am a qualified Basketball coach for U18. I love coaching and playing basketball.” His favourite song: Redemption song By Bob Marley

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Community Service- Touching Lives

Elective Africa is all about partnership with local communities and institutions and it’s no wonder our participants end up feeling the same. It takes a lot to come and immerse oneself in a different culture, get exposed to the massive need in public health centers, schools and orphanages but every little bit helps local care providers provide better services and keep motivated. This summer saw individuals and groups stepping up to give back to their hosts in various ways.

Our students spend their free time volunteering among the community. This summer, several went out to local schools to teach children on topics like reproductive health, science and mathematics. Others gave motivational talks to inspire the young ones to dream big.

Others spent time at orphanages like the Neema House and the Riruta Shade for Orphaned Children to bring some joy to children often overlooked by the society. They planted trees in the compounds, brought books, mattresses, food and toys, and played with the children.

It is more than a diversion for the staff at such facilities who appreciate the help but the greatest reward is to put a smile on a child’s face.

Last but not least, students made donations to the hospitals in which they were placed by buying equipment and supplies including thermometers, gloves, blood pressure machines and even donating clothing for the newborn babies.

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Rafting the Rapids

One morning not too long ago I found myself bumping along a rutted track in the back of a lorry. I was sitting in an inflatable raft with two other first-timers staring at the distant hills in the cool, still air. We were about to embark on an adventure – white-water rafting on the Tana River. The lorry stopped and everyone jumped out. The crew helped us carry the raft down to the bank. Shivering with excitement (or was that just me?) we pushed off, our paddles rhythmically cutting through the water.

The three-hour trip downriver is a study in extremes beginning with still water where you can take in the surroundings as you row, row, row your boat. The temptation to paddle harder to get to the more exciting part is great. But once your arms start getting tired, you’ll finally notice the birds singing in the trees and reeds or how a leaf barely touching the water makes the most intriguing swirls on the surface. You might even be lulled into a false calm when you suddenly come to the exciting bit. It is white-water rafting after all. You will get soaked to the skin, and you will love it.

A great day out close to Nairobi, Rapids Camp offers options for seekers of the adrenalin rush. With grade 3 – 5 rapids on Tana River, there is just enough action without the experience being too technical for the novice. Other activities include kayaking, river trekking, rock climbing, and bungee jumping. And for those who want to spend the night and sample more of what the place has on offer is a beautiful campsite.

When I asked Abdul and Salma why they chose to spend their Saturday in this way, they joked that it was because they were crazy. But there is something about stepping outside your daily normal that makes you feel more alive.

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