My Grandmother used to live in Rwanda and still had some contacts there that helped me to curate my own volunteer trip. I spent two months in a centre for children with HIV. The centre cares for and provides them with the medicine and food they need until they turn 18.
Most memorable: Visit the Kigali Genocide memorial Centre – it was a tragic but an eye-opening experience.
Travel recommendations: Silver backed gorilla trekking was an amazing experience.
Final piece of advice: Get out of your comfort zone!
In 2016 I did a placement in the Philippines and it was very rewarding, so I embarked on another placement in Sri Lanka. I was looking forward to visiting as their medical system is completely free - unlike other developing countries I'd visited.
Most memorable: Visiting the Ayurvedic Clinic. I learnt to appreciate that, in some cases, complementary medicine is more appropriate and less invasive than western medicine.
Travel recommendations: Go to Guimara in Western Visayas in the Philippines during mango season – there is even a mango festival!
Final piece of advice: Go on the village experience.
Sri Lanka is a country full of beautiful people, beautiful weather and beautiful scenery. Spending time at the Ayurvedic Clinic was the highlight for me – I learnt how to use the land for medicine and was able to help heal patients with traditional therapies.
Most challenging: My thick Aussie accent was challenging when trying to communication with people who speak limited English. Finding creative ways to communicate and persistence is key to overcoming this.
Most memorable: During the village week in Habarana, our tour guide Dinesh cooked us a traditional Sri Lankan curry with homemade bread and I deadest still dream about that meal.
Final piece of advice: Stop talking about doing it and do it!
Nepal has a rich culture, picturesque landscape and a health system that is very different to our own. I was impressed by the detailed way pharmacists communicate with patients and I will bring that into my practice. I would recommend going to Nepal with no expectations or preconceived ideas, having an open mind to the culture will allow you to get the most out of your trip.
Most memorable: Observing a childbirth.
Final piece of advice: Drink the traditional sweet tea and STAY LONGER!
Sri Lanka is very different to Australia, there were literally thousands of patients lined up every day to get their medicine, the volume of work does not impact the pharmacist's abilities, to see this is worth the trip alone. Don't be tempted to get swept up in the relaxing aspects of the trip, take advantage of the volunteering opportunities available to you.
Most memorable: Communicating with patients and watching patient-pharmacist interactions in the surgical and psychiatric wards.
Travel highlight: Completing a 16-hour trek (google said 8 hours!) with thousands of other people. At the time I rated it poorly but in retrospect it was one of the highlights.
Final piece of advice: The spice levels are almost unnatural, it was almost painful for me to eat the food that the locals did.