Posted on 27 November, 2013

While we have a significant portion of returning team members on this trip, we also have a fantastic group of first timers (me included) who are experiencing Open Heart International, and in some cases Africa, for the first time.

I asked them why they chose to come on the trip, though a significant number admitted being cajoled by the team veterans or relatives of team members, and how the trip had proven to be different from their original expectations.

Many of our volunteers, like Pippa Collins from Melbourne and Carly Steeger from the Kimberly in WA, said that they had always wanted to undertake some form of humanitarian work overseas and this was the right opportunity. While others like, Sarah Edwards from Sydney had heard many good things about OHI which made the decision to apply an easier one. Everyone I spoke to agreed that working with OHI was an amazing opportunity give back using their professional skills. It’s a big thing to be able to help children who may not survive without treatment.

Christine, Nicole, Sarah, Elli & CarlyFor those who have come on this trip to Kigali, there is an adjustment period. Treatments and monitoring of patients can be different, and it’s little things like beds not rising that made them appreciate their home hospitals. Pippa described it as a beautiful working environment, and mentioned what while even short of resources people pull together in creative ways.

Surgeon Dr. David Andrews expressed his surprise at the level of complexity he saw in the cases over the first few days, and acknowledge what a good learning experience it was for the whole team. He said he’d been trying to come on an OHI trip for a long while, but when there are few numbers of paediatric cardiac surgeons in your city it can be hard to get away. When invited on this trip he jumped at the opportunity. And to watch the children and their families on the ward treat him like a rock star it isn’t hard to see why.David, patient and family

For the newbies coming to Kigali city has been a really positive experience. Some mentioned concerned they or their families had expressed regarding safety and conditions. Yet the city and the people have been extremely welcoming and the new OHI team members have expressed how picturesque, and safe, the town feels. Already there have been visits to the Kimironko markets, into town and to the Genocide Memorial. Open Heart International is always looking for volunteers, both medical and non-medical.

If interested make sure you check out our volunteer page on the website here. Over the next few months OHI are particularly looking for Australian based people with experience in logistics and fundraising that may be willing to provide some expertise in these areas. For more information, or to register your interest, contact us via the website.

Tags:  East Africa,