Malawi project

During the 2014 summer holidays, I went on my first work experience to Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi, Africa. I worked for three weeks in the village of Nkhoma, staying with the head of the pharmacy in his bungalow a 15 minute walk away from the hospital. On a daily basis my modes of transport were walking, cycling or the rare ride in the hospital ambulance.

Prior to this trip, I had been raising funds to supply a year's worth of insulin for the hospital; a challenge set for me by Robert Jones, the head pharmacist and also the Church of Scotland, who support the hospital and sponsor it to ensure it runs. The total I had to raise was £2500. From March 2014 I had been fundraising in and out of school. A donation page has been set up here. In school I have raised money by money box donations, wristbands, Malawian coffee, handicrafts, and bake sales. They were extremely successful and within a few weeks the project was well under way.

Currently Nkhoma Hospital is one of the best hospitals in the whole of Malawi. In 2011 it supplied medicines, pharmaceuticals, and conducted over 50 per cent of the cataract eye surgeries in Malawi. However despite all of this, the Hospital is still in the early stages of development and relies heavily on international foundations and trusts (for example US Aid, UNICEF, the Clinton foundation); to supply funds for everything required in the running of the hospital. The government payments are untrustworthy and not enough to run the hospital by itself. My aim was to contribute to this fabulous institution in any way I could, as what they do is amazing considering the limited resources they have access to.

My experience during the trip was phenomenal. I had the greatest experience ever; just the effect of being in a location like Malawi, doing that kind of work was life changing. It opened my eyes to the extreme luxury we have here back in the UK compared to the average person in Malawi.

The first week had a heavy workload. When I started it was the end of the Malawian financial year, therefore we were bombarded by a myriad of pharmacy orders coming in, physical stock count for every apparatus, medicine and tablet in the warehouse for government records. I myself was put in charge of making the spreadsheets for the official records, and was also in charge of inspecting each order when they arrived, to make sure all medicines and medical implements on the orders had arrived and that they were in good conditions to be used in the hospital. During my other two weeks I got integrated into the day-to-day life of the hospital working at both the pharmacy warehouse and the dispensary down in the main hospital. My jobs ranged from packing weekly and weekend supplies for each of the hospital’s departments (surgery, children’s Ward, maternity ward, etc), preparing for out of site visits to the remote medical centres who needed their month’s supplies, unpacking and stocking medicines and equipment, recycling used boxes, and many more. It was a euphoric experience, with a myriad of learning, a real eye opener for me to be in a struggling LEDC country, and to be able to see the world from a different view point than from the western world.

Vardaan Mehra

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