Its 2:30 in the afternoon and I am sitting in a tiny hot pink house built by the South African government in a poor township. To my right, volunteer AIDS nurses sit and chat about what their schedule for the day is, but I’m focused instead on a small boy in bright orange pants wandering around the single room wielding an empty water bottle. The boy comes up to me and bops my knee with his weapon of choice before tottering off to terrorize some of the nurses. His mother, an HIV positive woman, sits to my left and tells me about the miracle of how her son is HIV negative because of an antiretroviral drug the woman was given by doctors right before she gave birth.
My name is Margo and I am currently a first year medical student at UT Houston. My classmate Roxanne and I want to spend four weeks of our summer volunteering at an HIV clinic in Tanzania.
HIV has been devastating sub-Saharan Africa for the past 30 years. My previous experience volunteering at clinics as an undergraduate in South Africa was both inspiring and frustrating. I wanted to be treating patients suffering from HIV but lacked the training. Now that I am a medical student I have the experience and education needed to be useful as a medical care provider. Rural Tanzania is in particular need of improved care for those infected with HIV. According to the World Health Organization, Tanzania has one of the worst physician-to-patient ratios in the world, and as of 2004, only about 0.5% of those with advanced HIV were receiving treatment. With more than 5% of the population in Tanzania living with HIV, this disparity is in desperate need of improvement.
Roxanne and I decided to put our education to use by traveling to Moshi, Tanzania to volunteer through the local organization Path to Africa (PTA). PTA gives direct help to local small-scale organizations in Moshi town, including the Majengo Medical Clinic where we will volunteer. PTA provides volunteers and donors with a way of accessing and helping local projects without going through a third body, ensuring all time and money donated goes directly to the projects intended.
While volunteering for 4 weeks at the Majengo Clinic, we will assist local staff with pre and postnatal care for pregnant women and provide medical care for local people with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and typhoid fever. We will also accompany nurses on home visits to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS to give medical advice, medications or food to people unable to afford to attend a hospital. It is our goal to improve our clinical experience and perspective while simultaneously providing aid to the underserved of Moshi.
In addition to our volunteer work we are raising funds to support PTA’s latest local initiative; the construction of Corner Stone Children’s Centre. Corner Stone Children’s Centre will house programs run by the local organization, Tanzania Children’s Concern (TCC), which provides free access to quality education and a safe living environment for children. TCC is making some remarkable progress and notable achievements include graduating the first class of children from primary school with flying colors, with students ranking the highest in Moshi on regional exams, and installing a borehole to provide students with clean, safe, and consistent water.
With support from donations, PTA will obtain a solar pump to power the borehole, plaster the walls of the Centre and install electricity.
As volunteers in Moshi, we will care for those suffering from HIV. We will use our clinical training to assist the doctors and nurses in Tanzania with caring for more patients than they usually have the resources to treat. We believe in the importance of integrated global health and hope to inspire our fellow medical school classmates by sharing our experiences. In the long term, our fundraising efforts with PTA will allow vulnerable children in Tanzania access to education, a safe place to live, and basic needs for them to thrive.
Our fundraising goals include:
Airfare for volunteers: $2000
Visas and housing in Tanzania: $1000
Purchasing medical supplies for the Majengo Clinic once on site: $500
Contributing to the solar pump for the borehole at Corner Stone Children’s Centre: $2500
Total Fundraising goal = $6,000
I hope you are as inspired as I am by the work of Path to Africa and see the great need in Tanzania for improved care for those living with HIV. I would like to extend a very special and personal invitation for you to join Roxanne and me on our journey and help us make a difference in the lives of the people of Moshi, Tanzania. We need your help and donations to turn this dream into a reality! We are so excited to volunteer in the clinics and build the Children’s Centre, and your generous support will make a world of difference to these people half a world away.