Student nurse Charlotte Lumb was determined to experience and help out the health service in Africa – and she funded the trip by selling hundreds of cupcakes.
Charlotte, who is training in the oncology and haematology department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, spent six weeks this winter in Arusha, on the edge of the Serengeti in Tanzania.
She spent time on the labour ward, in casualty and the village dispensary.
Charlotte decided she wanted to visit the area after her UCLan course introduced her to the idea of alternative placements overseas.
She could have gone anywhere in the world, but had always wanted to visit Africa and to go somewhere she felt she could be of use.
She said: “I thought ‘let’s go somewhere they need my help, where resources are low and healthcare is completely the other end of the spectrum from the National Health Service in Britain’.”
While Charlotte initially felt homesick, she soon settled in.
“I won’t miss the bunk beds – not the best when you are 6ft 2ins tall!
“The cook at the nurses’ house was an amazing woman. I felt as if she was my African mum.
“On weekends, we were lucky enough to see a lot of the country. We went to see waterfalls, Kilimanjaro’s base camp, made coffee from bean to the cup, went to a snake park, explored markets and went to hot springs.
“We went goat-herding, danced with the mammas, made jewellery and hung out with the warriors.”
And Charlotte said her time in the developing world was eye-opening.
“No matter how poor the people were, they always had a smile.
“Everyone was so happy – laughing, smiling and dancing. England could learn a lot.
“The labour ward was an eye-opener. The women of Tanzania are so strong. They go through labour alone, with no pain relief and little assistance from midwives until the baby is nearly born.
“Casualty was crazy, but I got to use the skills and experience I gained over the last three years in England.
“I enjoyed assisting the Tanzanian doctors to diagnose conditions by giving possible reasons of their symptoms based on previous cases I had seen.
“They really appreciated this and we all worked together as a team.
“There were no real similarities to the hospitals in Tanzania and in England – they couldn’t be further apart.
“There seemed to be no structure, no protocols, no dignity and the basic nursing care was not the standard I like to work to in England. This was all due to the culture, which I respected, although I did not agree with the care given.
“I really enjoyed Wednesdays in the village because it was busy at the clinic and all the mammas came to get their babies weighed. The weighing scales were just hanging from a tree outside. My values and beliefs about nursing care are stronger than ever and I’m ready to go home and qualify for four months and start my career.
“I’d like to thank everyone who supported me with my fund-raising and my friends and family – without them I would never have experienced this.”