Life takes unexpected turns. Sometimes we are prepared for them and sometimes we have to adapt quickly to continue to face new situations that are presented to us. Volunteerism, in a context as different as Africa, is undoubtedly one of those situations. It is both exciting and challenging. In this case, the changes are very important: the food, the comfort of the house (showering with buckets of cold water, washing clothes by hand, not having electricity for days, not having running water, etc.), being looked at and greeted by many people as if you were someone famous, being asked for money, not understanding the language, etc. I have learned a lot from volunteering, but if I have to keep something to myself, it is that you can discover great opportunities in the new situations that life puts in front of you.
Let me explain: I’m a nurse, and my job is essentially to care for patients, administer vaccines, do blood tests, etc. But here I had to adapt to the context and needs and that was a valuable discovery. Kenya has great health professionals, and it doesn’t make sense for me to come here and do the same work that they are very good at. In thinking about how to do more sustainable, high-impact work, the figure of CHVs (Community Health Volunteers) emerged, people who work with health centers to identify cases of different diseases in their communities and refer them to the clinic or hospital for severe cases. But they are not health professionals, they are only volunteers who want to contribute to the betterment of their community. So I decided to give them my support, focusing on training in the prevention of common illnesses and the promotion of good health habits. They would be trained so that they could teach their neighbors in their communities and empower them to take action on their health.
My pleasant surprise was that under the skin of a nurse there is also a teacher. Thanks to the interest in HCV, the experience was very positive and made me rethink my future as a potential health education nurse. I believe more and more that knowledge is power and that the path of education is one of the best things you can invest in to empower people and take control of their health. I had to adapt to new work circumstances, had fun, and discovered a vocation I didn’t know about.
In addition to this great experience, I take with me a great gift.