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Nursing in Sri Lanka by Elaine Martyn

Over the summer of 2015, I spent some time volunteering with Projects Abroad. My first placement was in Sri Lanka at the National Cancer Institute in Maharagama, where I spent four weeks on the Nursing Project. I am a General Nurse in Ireland, specializing in Health & Safety and Healthcare Training, and I wanted to utilize these skills during my time volunteering abroad.

After speaking to the Projects Abroad team, along with the Hospital Director in Sri Lanka, we agreed on a training program that I would present to the healthcare staff. This training program was based around the topic of infection control.

Volunteering as a Nurse in Sri Lanka

Volunteering at a medical outreach in Sri Lanka

I spent the first week in the hospital observing, taking part in nursing care, and auditing the present infection control practices and procedures. There were a number of infections present in the hospital, many of which had been named ‘epidemics’ by the healthcare staff. I enjoyed working with the education team in the hospital and with the staff in each ward. We introduced simple techniques to the staff that can be used to prevent the spread of these infections, and put up posters emphasizing the importance of washing hands on the walls, in the hope that these good practices will continue.

Volunteering in this hospital was a great and inspiring experience. As a volunteer, I was welcomed to each ward and treated to many of the local food specialties of Sri Lanka by the other staff. Once all of the volunteers showed initiative, they could help out more in the hospital.

In Sri Lanka, I also took part in community work, which involved carrying out health screenings for local people in different communities on Sri Lanka’s west coast. I really enjoyed this part as we all got the chance to embrace the local culture. We even participated in a game or two of cricket with the local children!

Volunteering in Public Health in the Philippines

Elaine with her host family in the Philippines

On completion of my project in Sri Lanka, I moved to the Philippines and traveled to the island of Cebu. While in Cebu, I volunteered in Bogo City on the Public Health Project.

My Filipino host family were wonderful. They invited me into their hone with open arms and treated me as part of the family from day one. I was immersed in the local culture while in Bogo City. The project involved getting collected each morning in a Jeepney (this was great fun, with Taylor Swift booming on the radio!) and doing health surveillances and screenings in disadvantaged communities outside the main city. This involved blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol checks, as well as obtaining a health history for each individual.

Although we were quite busy at times (and it was difficult working in the heat) this project was also a great chance for volunteers to experience rural Filipino life. When we had time, we played a quick game of basketball with the children (basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines) and spent time speaking to the adults about their lives and past-times, as well as getting a better insight into their culture.

I was also given the opportunity to present my infection control training program to the staff in the local hospital in Bogo City. The staff here gave the volunteers a great welcome and spoke to us in depth about their work lives in the Philippines.

Socializing with Other Volunteers

Playing with the children after outreach activities

In the evenings, the volunteers would get together and socialize. It was very easy to meet the other volunteers in the Philippines as we were all based in Bogo City. Each Thursday, the Projects Abroad team held an l evening social for us, which involved events such as a table quiz, celebration of local dancing/local music, fancy dress, Karaoke, and more.

Projects Abroad was an exceptional organization to work with and I will always remember my work and time with them during the summer of 2015, and the lovely volunteers and locals I met along the way.

Read more about Nursing in Sri Lanka and Public Health in the Philippines.

Elaine Martyn

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