Volunteer Name: Gunjan Koul
Project Location: Lusaka, Zambia
Volunteered at: Clinic/ Youth Project
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country?
Originally I was supposed to stay with Josphat Njovu, but then was moved to stay with Malingose Chipeta (Mali). The switch was serendipitous, as Mali demonstrated all the qualities of a perfect host. She and her family welcomed me with open arms, and made sure that I wanted for nothing. Her dedication and her willingness to go above and beyond for me and the other volunteers was seen everyday. Josphat and I had very limited interaction, though he was perfectly cordial.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
The most surprising thing...I'm not sure. ABV was correct in advising against having expectations about the experience, and so I tried to go in with an open mind. Surprises came up in my work at the clinic and in the everyday, but in time, you come into a routine. Eventually I settled in and learned to call Mali's house my home. The clinic became a second home. The only thing that's surprising is how much I could pack up and move here permanently. That's a feeling I wasn't prepared for.
3- What was most difficult to experience?
The first days at the clinic were challenging. Beyond the differences in resources and standard practices, it was a tricky thing trying to find my place in relation to my skill set as a nurse. I was negotiating things like trying to fit in with the other nurses, learn the environment as it was specific to the clinic, and then screen patients while slowly interpreting the local languages they spoke. I sought to learn, to grow, and to share my knowledge where I could. I think that overall it worked out in the best possible way.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
As a medical volunteer I really struggled with how much to bring in the way of basic supplies. Ultimately, what was of most value were the gloves, alcohol swabs, and resources for the students doing their attachments in the clinic. The clinical officers made use of these as well. I would advise volunteers to bring as many of these as possible, rather than things like vitamins and older medication. Expired medications were thrown away.
4.1-Other things volunteers should know:
a.- Be adaptable
c.-Be grateful, because you will miss the experience when you no longer have it.
d.- Be joyful, the small stuff is just that.
5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
I was glad to have randomly decided to journey back to Zambia for a third time, and that too, that I did it through ABV. My original program was change (as in I arrived and was immediately staying with a different family ) but I stayed open minded. My bedmate turned into one of the best people I've ever met in life, the house I did get placed in was wonderful, and everything sorted itself out. Working at the clinic was life changing, and if you exert yourself to see what does work in this clinical setting instead of how things are different or that resources are limited, you can see the beauty of how care is administered in this local community.
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared)
Mali's house was incredible. Meals were shared, as were chores of clean up afterwards. Her family is beautiful, welcoming, and very easygoing. The gate to the house was secure and locked each night. I never felt unsafe or unsatisfied. It was perfect.
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Too difficult to choose just one. Mali was a godsend, and the clinic was everything I wanted in a work experience, and more.
8.- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
It was good...I'll only say that communication between ABV and the local coordinators doesn't always seem so straightforward, and while that was ok for me, I can see how younger volunteers might find that a little overwhelming.
9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers