I chose to travel with Work the World on my physiotherapy elective, as I knew I always wanted to go to Africa to do something like this. Arusha appeared the ideal place, as it sounded small and remote – just what I wanted.
Before the trip I had a lot of contact with Chris, my assigned Elective Expert in the UK. He explained everything to us and answered any questions we had. I was interested in to try and get the most out of my elective and Chris went out of his way to help.
James met us at the airport and gave us a thorough introduction and orientation of Arusha. I it was good to spend some of our first day walking around and finding out where everything was before starting placement.
The WTW house is lovely and big with everything you need. The staff at the house are so welcoming and cook amazing food. The house also has Wi-Fi, along with the occasional power cut (but these add to the experience of living in a developing country).
At placement our typical week would be Monday on the wards, Tuesday outpatients, Wednesday – major ward round, Thursday – outpatients and Friday on the wards. During outpatients we saw many things similar to what we’d see at home such as stroke, fractures, and lower back pain. The rationale behind treatment was very similar to the UK, however they don’t have half as much equipment as we do.
Working on the ward was at first quite a shock, especially seeing the conditions the patients were in; there were so many femur fractures from ‘pikipiki’ (motorbike) accidents. The treatment for fractures is very different to the UK; patients are put in traction for 6-8 weeks to re-align the bones with hardly any pain relief. Many patients don’t speak any English, however the Physiotherapists and nurses will be more than happy to help translate for you.
In paediatrics we saw children with fractures, burns, cerebral palsy, and malnutrition. We were able to give children and mothers advice and show them treatment techniques. We also got the chance to visit a centre for children with cerebral palsy where parents could bring their children to get treatment and interact with others. It gave them hope and encouragement, which was so heart-warming to see.
I would advise future physiotherapist students to bring with them lots of hand sanitizer, gloves, hand wash and equipment for the physiotherapists if possible. There are lots of activities to do at weekends and the afternoons – a coffee tour, hot springs, visiting orphanages, and my favourite – a 4x4 safari, which I definitely recommend. It was an incredible experience.
Finally enjoy yourself, get stuck in, and make the most of your time in Arusha – You’ll never forget it!