I volunteered with First Aid Africa for 5 weeks this summer. First Aid Africa are a charity that mainly recruits students from universities in the UK to teach first aid skills in East African countries. The aim is to reduce the mortality and morbidity due to injuries by providing sustainable first aid training and equipment (made from local resources) so that ultimately, the charity can leave the region with confidence that the local people have been sufficiently trained to continue teaching within the community without them. The reasons I chose to volunteer with this charity are many: I study Medicine and enjoy practicing the practical aspects of the course and I feel that first aid is a very important life skill that can prevent many unnecessary deaths. I have also worked with other charities in the past that claim to be sustainable and have struggled to be, so I was keen to work with an organisation that appeared to have a lot of potential to be so.
Before I left for the trip, I was mainly just very excited about it but obviously also had a few worries in the back of my mind. One was dealing with the culture shock of being in such a different part of the world – I was worried about how I would react to the poverty and the feelings of guilt I have felt before when travelling to poorer parts of the world about being very privileged and feeling like I’ve done nothing to deserve all I have. I was also slightly worried about my safety as I’d done a lot of research and realised that Nairobi in particular has a reputation for being very unsafe. In terms of the project itself, I was worried about the potential language barrier and whether or not the school children we were teaching would be receptive to our way of teaching. I was also concerned about whether or not the people we were teaching would be enthusiastic to learn and would value the skills we were teaching them and therefore take it seriously. Thankfully, we had local trainers teaching with us who were able to advise us as to the best teaching styles in Kenya, to translate if needed and who were very enthusiastic themselves which encouraged the people we were teaching to be.
The trip was not problem-free however. As a group of volunteers we did not always get on the best we could have and this was sometimes exacerbated by how busy we were and the heat. I also struggled to adjust to the fact that things do not run to time in Kenya and people are often very late for things which made working there more frustrating at times than I had anticipated. Unfortunately, those aspects of the trip were out of the charity’s control.