At the edge of the world I knew

Gosia, a doctor from Poland, participated in a volunteer program in Moroto, Uganda, organized through the Sacred Heart Sisters in Warsaw. She recounts her experiences below.

My name is Gosia. I am a young doctor from Poland, who has dreamt for a long time of bringing medical services to the less fortunate in a country abroad. I love travelling, getting to know the world through people, their cultures, languages, the environments they live in. Ever since I decided upon my career, I wanted to combine this new part of my identity with this long-standing passion. For this reason, once I finished my studies; a compulsory year of working in a hospital; and a few months gaining experience working as a general practitioner, I set off to work as a volunteer in Moroto, a small town in Karamoja, in the north-eastern region of Uganda.

It is not so much that I have chosen the place of my volunteer work; rather, I like to think that it has chosen me. I had been looking for an opportunity to go on such an experience for a long time, writing to different organizations and voluntary associations, but it turned out to be more difficult than I thought, especially with the Covid pandemic. In the meantime, I took part in an interesting retreat, organized by the Sacred Heart Sisters in Warsaw. I liked their spirituality and charism so much that I decided to ask whether they organize volunteer programs as well, and soon after I became a member of one. One year later I got an offer to go to Uganda.

Going to Africa was a big step for me, especially taking into account that it was my first time leaving Europe. Everything was totally different from what I had known, but luckily medicine stayed the same. I was working as a doctor in a ?health centre III?, which means that we had an outpatient station, some wards for children and adults, a maternity section and some basic surgical supplies, but no operating theater. I was seeing patients with malaria, tuberculosis, brucellosis, malnourished children and many other conditions. Sometimes we had to suture or clean wounds; other times I was helping the midwives with pregnant women. Another goal of the dispensary was outreach aimed at bringing medical help to rural communities. We used to go with the ambulance to distant villages, scan for malaria and bring basic medicines for those who probably would not have been able to get them otherwise. In addition, I was able to witness the evangelization process in the villages, when I accompanied Sister Paulina to take part in the liturgies on Sundays.

I believe that the most important characteristic that one can have during such an experience is flexibility. You need to adapt to the possibilities that you have and make the best out of them. For me, it was also a great lesson on patience, as the rhythm of work was very different from the rush that I am used to in Poland. ?African time?, a concept that assumes no hurry, seems to concern all levels of social and professional life. Another difficulty was the language barrier, as most of the patients did not speak English and I always had to find somebody to translate for me. It was hard for me to be dependent on the other staff members most of the time, but on the other hand, it motivated me to take the initiative where I could. Therefore, I tried to take advantage of the equipment that was available but not used because of the lack of know-how. I studied and later trained the staff on how to use an ultrasound machine and an oxygen concentrator. Cultural differences sometimes presented challenges as well, although I found people very easygoing and friendly.

Aside from the volunteer work, I had an opportunity to visit the beauty of Uganda, the pearl of Africa. Together with other volunteers we went to see the wildlife and landscapes of Kidepo Valley National Park. We saw giraffes, zebras, buffalos, warthogs, baboons and many types of antelopes. The Savannah scenery, the extraordinary vistas of the mountains in the distance, and the wild animals seen in their natural environment created a truly breathtaking view. This memory, as well as the welcoming approach of the locals, the support that I got from the sisters, and the chance to experience a completely different world will stay in my mind forever. I am grateful for this opportunity and recommend that anyone who is called to explore the edges of their world go ahead and do it!

Ma?gorzata Moszy?ska

Section |International News|RSCJ International Volunteers

Province |Poland, Uganda/Kenya