In June and July 2016, Fernando –a 22 year-old nurse studying a Masters in Critical Emergencies, worked as a volunteer at St. Francis Xavier Hospital (Ghana) through the Benedict Menni Foundation.
What motivated you to volunteer?
My aunt has always been involved with NGOs and instilled in me the will to volunteer from an early age. I wanted to volunteer when I was going to school but I was advised to wait until I finished my degree; so as soon as I graduated, I did it.
At first, I was a little hot-headed and didn’t mind where volunteered, but then I thought it would be a good option to start in a hospital where I could learn. A university colleague, who also volunteered in Foso, recommended me the Sisters Hospitallers and we carried out some preparatory work at a care home near where I lived.
Some members of staff live in bungalows next to the hospital. My colleague and I were sharing one
What were your expectations before you volunteered?
One always wants to give the most of oneself, and we tend to think we are going to be heroes –even if we deny it! But I was willing to learn and I knew they were going to teach me more than I already knew, either through new procedures or culturally, because new experiences change our way of thinking.
Did you exceed them?
Did anything surprise you?
I thought the place would be very poor, more than it actually is. But when I arrived, I realised the hospital was in a very good condition and well organised. The healthcare job categories are differentiated. There were also students on placement, and I felt like a master’s student who was helping the staff out.
I also visited a mortuary, I had never seen one before in Spain, and the truth is it was quite impressive.
We used to work during the weekdays and then we visited touristic places over the weekend. We went to the beach, sightseeing to bigger cities…
How did you get along with staff and patients?
The staff wanted me to fit in from the outset, and they all made the adaptation easier. They taught me how to do many things, and I was really interested in learning the differences between working in Spain and in Ghana, such as the different procedures carried out in both countries. So we shared techniques and became friends.
Patients were astounded to see me, they hadn’t seen many white people apart from the sisters; it is a small village! They would stare at me, I guess because I am young and they were thinking “where is this guy coming from?”
What are the highlights of this experience?
What one ends up learning is unimaginable. I was impressed to see how much they know and how well they control certain situations. They definitely passed their improvisation and self-improvement abilities on me.
Would you volunteer again?
Yes. I would love to go to another place to meet other cultures; I don’t mind where as long as I learn.