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Volunteer Abroad in Asia

Claire Bailey

Volunteer Story by Claire Bailey
Medical Electives in India

In my third year at medical school I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to arrange a placement myself. After months of doing placements in Sheffield and the surrounding area, not surprisingly another stint in a South Yorkshire hospital in the winter months didn't fill me with excitement. I therefore decided to arrange a placement abroad. Projects Abroad seemed like a great idea as I already heard excellent stories from a friend who had arranged her Gap Year with them.

Volunteer Story by Claire Bailey - Being Dresses By My Indian Mum

I was based at Giri hospital which has one doctor, four nurses and about ten beds. Although the hospital building itself is fairly basic, it is well equipped having a new ECG machine, an ultrasound scanner and endoscopy facilities.

I travelled to the hospital by bicycle. The first day I cycled to the hospital alone will stay in my memory for a long time. I was convinced I was either going to get extremely lost (as there were no road names or signs) or going die (there don't seem to be any road rules!). Forget skydiving or bungee jumping - if you are a thrill seeker try cycling on a busy road in India!!

Volunteer Story by Claire Bailey - With My Indian Family

Whilst in India I stayed with a local family. There were a couple of other volunteers staying with the family. Our host mum, Devamani, cooked all our meals, which were fantastic. Indian food here in England is not quite the same once you've tasted the real thing. Most of my first week in India was spent getting used to eating only with my right hand. Initially the family used to giggle at me struggling to eat my rice drenched in sambar. However, by the end of my trip the thought of going back to using cutlery seemed a strange prospect.

During my last week in India, the two other girls in the house and I decided to make a cake for the family. Unless you have tried to bake a cake in India you probably won't realise how much of a hassle it is buy all the ingredients - I think if we had realised this we might have chosen something else to make!! Our Indian mum suggested that we should go to the local juice bar to buy butter as they had a fridge. When we got there we suddenly realised that we had forgotten to find out the Tamil word for butter. It therefore took a bit of talking to try and explain what we wanted.

Volunteer Story by Claire Bailey - With Nurses At The Hospital

After listing the ingredients in a cake, looking in the freezer (which was followed by some time explaining that we didn't want an ice cream!) and saying butter numerous times the shopkeeper finally said 'ahhh butter!' and explained that he didn't have any and said that we should try at the local supermarket. We decided to get a rickshaw to the supermarket but as it was a Sunday there weren't many around so we headed to the Projects Abroad office where they called one for us. As we were waiting for the rickshaw to arrive, a motorbike pulled up outside the office. It was the man from the juice bar. He had gone to the supermarket and bought the butter for us and managed to find us again! One thing I miss about India is how friendly Indian people are and they are often willing to do anything for people.

Going to India was one of the best decisions I have made. I have made some great friends and still keep in touch with my Indian family. I think my only regret is that I had to come home and sit my end of year exams! Luckily I passed my exams but maybe this is thanks to being blessed by an elephant whilst in India!

Claire Bailey

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