Work the World is a brilliant organisation of people that know exactly what they are doing. They sort so much out for you and have everything organised and under control which was so appealing. Any member of the team that I spoke to was happy to help, excited for my upcoming adventure and really supportive if I was worried about anything.
When we arrived in Sri Lanka the lovely Mewan met us in arrivals. He took us to a hotel where we met up with a few other people who had arrived and then the taxi ride from Colombo to Kandy began. And that was a highlight for sure! They drive in a special kind of way in Sri Lanka, which certainly gets the blood pumping. Our taxi driver was great though and he stopped off to buy us bananas. We’d not been in Sri Lanka more than 2 hours and I experienced my first real Sri Lankan toilet, a very classy hole in the ground (by the end of my four weeks I had got squatting down to an art!)
We arrived at the house and dumped our suitcases in our rooms and spent the evening chatting to the guys already there and eating great food! One of the things that made my experience so amazing was the staff! Nandika the programme manager and his team at the house are always up for a laugh and a chat.
Though I had seen amazing things in the operating theatre the day I spent on Ward 70 topped that
Nandika took us to the hospital to meet the chief nursing officer who told us about the departments we would be working on. I spent two weeks on paediatric medicine and two weeks on paediatric surgery. It was really interesting to see the difference between a medical ward in Sri Lanka, compared to the UK. It was a busy ward with lots of beds and the ward round was always interesting. The doctors speak good English and are happy to answer your questions. If you want to do as much as possible you have to ask and ask, otherwise it’s a lot of watching and chatting to the nurses, which was also a good experience.
For me, surgery was the best experience. I got to spend my days watching amazing surgeries and chatting to the surgeons who were happy to answer my questions. I saw some stuff I’ve never seen before and it was truly amazing! In my last week I spent a day on the pre and post op ward and this was probably the highlight of my time in the hospital.
Though I had seen amazing things in the operating theatre the day I spent on Ward 70 topped that. Whilst I was sat chatting with the nurses there was a boy screaming whilst receiving IV medication. He was about 5 years old and 2 weeks prior to my meeting him he had his hand amputated because of a serious electrocution incident. One of the things I found hardest in Sri Lanka is the language barrier. Though I had learnt a few phrases and words, it is hard to sit with a family and converse with them like you would back home because they just don’t understand you and some children can be very shy because we look so different.
With doubt in my mind that I could do anything to comfort this child because of these reasons, I went to his bed anyway. I sat next to him and showed him photos of my adventures in Sri Lanka (mostly elephants) and slowly he stopped screaming and just whimpered. After a little while longer, more photos of elephants and the odd picture of my cats at home, his whimpering stopped and I saw the occasional smile. I found a colouring book on his bed and using my charades expertise I gestured to him that his pictures were very good and, ‘could he do some more with me’.
A couple of hours later he was laughing and eagerly finishing one picture after another. At one point he turned to the nurse and said his neck was sore from looking down at his colouring book for so long but he carried on colouring, she laughed. At the end of the day I walked back to the house feeling amazing because I had done something that I actually felt had made a difference. Seeing how different things are over there and watching how everything works is really interesting but to actually do something that counted was incredible.
We spent our weekends travelling (by taxi, train, bus and ‘tuk tuk’) from one corner of Sri Lanka to the other. I cycled around Polonnaruwa, climbed Sigiriya, held baby turtles, snorkelled with sharks, drank Sri Lankan beer on breath-taking beaches whilst watching the sun rise and set. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and my experience was made even more amazing by the people I shared it with.