University of Brighton 2011

Midwifery, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

We ran a competition this year with the University of Brighton which entitled one of their midwifery students to a free elective placement with us. Paula decided on Tanzania as she had always wanted to visit Africa and compare the health care with that available in the UK.

I had been so excited about my elective to Tanzania for so long, that when I stepped off the plane I couldn't believe I was finally there, and it was lovely to be greeted by Alpha's happy smiling face and welcoming wave! The Work the World house was absolutely lovely; spacious and comfortable with a pool that I couldn't wait to get into.

On first arriving I went out for dinner with the other housemates to a place called Slipway, where there is a restaurant with outdoor seating covered with thatched canopies right on the ocean. It was a good way to break the ice and get to know everyone. The meal was followed by cocktails on the roof of the Hilton!

I came back down to earth with a bump the next day when we took the dala dala (small crowded local bus) to the hospital. The country really is full of contrasts, which became apparent on the journey, driving through areas of extreme poverty. However there was so much colour; lots of beautiful bright fabrics against the grey of the buildings.

The hospital took my breath away. I thought I would be prepared for the poverty, the lack of resources, scores of patients waiting to be seen, but in reality it was quite a shock. What surprised me was how members of staff of all grades greeted each other like old friends and were all like a big family. They were all very interested in who we were, where we had come from and what we were doing there.

Working on the labour ward was so different from at home, in so many ways. There was no pain relief available, so women had to just breathe through the pain, and I quickly learnt that I could be of use just by holding someone's hand or offering a few comforting words in Swahili. I did manage to deliver a couple of babies! One was born during an ambulance transfer! It is so worthwhile seeing and comparing how maternity services are delivered in a different country, especially a developing one.

Life in the house was fun; we had a weekly BBQ, followed by drinks and live music in a local bar. Rehema's cooking was out of this world, and every night when she announced what she had prepared for us, there was a big cheer! The other staff members in the house were so helpful and also good fun.

I was lucky enough to go on the village experience in Zanzibar, which was amazing! It's a beautiful island with stunning beaches and warm turquoise sea. We really able to immerse ourselves in village life by staying in a family home, helping with washing up, washing our clothes in a bowl, sharing meals and playing with the children. All around the village the children were poor, with no real toys to play with, but they were dressed in bright colours and had happy smiling little faces. They loved to follow us and have their photos taken, then roaring with laughter when they saw themselves on the screen!

The whole experience was absolutely amazing and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to go. Tanzania was absolutely the right choice-it's a beautiful and diverse country, with such welcoming and friendly people.

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