This year, I undertook a midwifery elective with Work the World in Tanzania. As we were flying from Abu Dhabi down to Dar Es Salaam on our second flight of the journey, the reality kicked in: we were about to embark on what could only be described as a life changing experience. When our plane touched down in Dar es Salaam I felt completely overwhelmed, excited and very nervous... I was suddenly questioning if I had done the right thing!
When we walked out of the arrivals doors, we were greeted by one of the Work the World team. His warmth and welcoming nature soon made us feel relaxed! As we were in the taxi travelling through Dar es Salaam it was like nothing I had seen before; street children, men selling very random items; varying from bottled water to DVDs at the roadside. I remember looking out the window to see a truck full of chickens, it all seemed so busy.
As the car pulled up outside the secure house and grounds, it became clear that this would be our new home for the next few weeks: the Work the World house. Following a tour of the house we sat outside on the veranda with our new housemates, I have never felt so nervous about meeting a group of new people, but I didn’t need to be as this group of people became my Dar family!
On our first evening we had a lovely welcome meal and awaited the arrival of more new housemates.
Monday morning was our orientation day, Mo, the programme manager had planned our day with meticulous detail. First stop was the journey to the hospital we would be working at on the dala dala (local public transport). That was an experience in itself and one at this point I had intended on not repeating. Imagine a 16 seater minibus been used as a busy city bus cramming 30+ people in it. We certainly learnt the meaning of "dala dala yoga" very quickly, my personal favourite being the "hanging sardine"!
Once we arrived at the hospital, we had a tour of the maternity block which we soon saw had limited resources, an ever-growing population and over-worked staff. The staff were very welcoming and greeted us with open arms.
Following our tour of the hospital we travelled back on the dala dala, where we were asked what tribe we were from our reply was “London Tribe” which was met by a crowd of laughter. Next stop was our first tuktuk experience (this has got to be one of the best ways to travel) it’s certainly a bumpy ride. The rest of the day consisted of a traditional Tanzanian lunch, chill time by the pool, currency exchange and organising sim cards.
The work the world team introduced us all to the slipway; basically a shopping area not far from the house. This is the place to buy all of your presents for family members, eat amazing ice cream and go on a sunset cruise!
My friend and I were the only two living in the house who were working at the maternity hospital, and at first I was insistent on getting taxis rather than the dala dala, but I grew to love the journey and the banter of riding the local transport!
The first day working in the hospital was amazing, I will never forget it. There were women lining the pathways, families mourning and celebrating, there was a whole mixture of emotions been displayed as we walked the path to the maternity block. As we walked into the Antenatal Ward, there was queues of women waiting to be assessed by the doctor. After being introduced to our supervisiors, we started our placement by taking their blood pressure; doing this took me back to my first year as student midwife learning how to do a manual blood pressure, all those same emotions came over me. I couldn’t believe I felt so nervous, but as I was taking blood pressure I turned around to see my friend on her knees, assisting with a birth in the middle of a waiting area.
Whilst in placement at the hospital, everything was back to basics: you had to bring your own gloves and equipment with you, and it was all about making use with what you have. I got to assist in welcoming six beautiful babies into the world, I actively participated in neonatal resuscitation, assisted a vaginal breech birth, managed a shoulder dystocia and a post-partum haemorrhage. All of which was under the guidance and supervision of registered midwives.
I was able to educate the Tanzanian midwives on the physiology of third stage and the importance of waiting for the placenta to prevent post-partum haemorrhage, uterine inversion and ultimately reduce maternal death.
It was truly an eye-opening experience, where I learnt a lot about myself and my future practice as a midwife.
Over the next couple of weeks I had the most amazing time of my life, with the most fabulous people I have met! I went on Safari to Mikumi National Park, where we got up close with elephants, zebras and giraffes. At one stage on safari, an elephant stood less than a foot away from the car and just looked at us, you could see every line, every eyelash and even hear it breathe.
At the end of our time we ventured over to Zanzibar with our friends from the house, where we snorkeled in the Indian Ocean, wore jewellery and crowns made of grass, took the ultimate giant tortoise selfie, drank fresh coconuts, got lost in Stone Town, star gazed at the Milky Way and drove a moped along the white sand beach!
I cannot thank the team at the hospital and Work the World enough for giving me this amazing, life changing experience and friendships that will last a lifetime. It was truly perfect! Asante Sana Tanzania!