“Why do you want to go to Rwanda? What made you want to go there?” My mother asked me this question 2 weeks ago – 2 weeks before I was set to travel here. The answer that came immediately to mind was “what do you mean? Doesn’t everyone want to go?”. She laughed and pointed out that no, not everyone wants to go and she challenged me to really answer the question.
I don’t really have a good answer. I have always wanted to go to this part of Africa. In 2001, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania for 2 months and work with a private physician and also a team of nurses who were doing outreach work related to the education about and prevention of HIV/AIDS. I learned more about myself and the work than in my prior 26 years. And I LOVED being in Tanzania. I loved the smell, I loved the lush green colours, I loved the little monkeys that were as common in the town I was living as squirrels are to us in Canada. And I really really loved seeing how things were done in another country so different from my own. I didn’t love the time I spent waiting…time had a different meaning to what I was used to. And it took me a long time to settle in to being (albeit very temporarily) a glaringly obvious visible minority. But again, I learned so much from this experience.
I have always wanted to go back but residency, marriage, babies, fellowship, etc. got in the way. And also, I have always been a bit skeptical of “global health medical missions”. I have wondered if they really help and I have heard so many tales of well-intentioned north American medical groups swooping in for a week, using up local resources, and then moving on. Admittedly, I have never been on such a mission and I am sure that many do very important and beneficial work…but there it is – my skepticism.
The opportunity to travel to Rwanda as a CASIEF volunteer has been around since 2006 – the year I finished residency. The program always interested me as it has an education mandate to support the training of residents both to be clinicians but also to be teachers for the next generation. Eventually, the program would be self sustaining – there will be enough attending anesthesiologists to run the academic program! For all of these reasons, I have always been interested but the timing has never been right.
About 18 months ago, a friend posted about being a CASiEF volunteer in Rwanda and I was SO JEALOUS. I had a moment of realization that if the program ended and I had not participated I would really regret it. After a chat with J, I met with Patty (the CASIEF volunteer coordinator, who also happens to be a friend) and began planning.
I guess the answer to my mom’s question is that I wanted to come to Rwanda because I have always been interested in this part of the world, I am excited to finally participate in a global health initiative, and I really believe in the idea of helping create a sustainable educational program.
I am so excited to be going to Rwanda!
***Note: this is blog site I used to keep, and I previously blogged with pseudonyms. If you read old posts, you may be confused by this! Rather than start new, I just decided to continue here.