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2 Week Specials, Medicine in Tanzania by Timothy Scafaria

My name is Timothy and I am from Central NJ. As a junior in high school, I became fascinated with the idea of travelling to Africa and seeing another part of the world. While I have been interested in medicine for all of my life, a part of me has wanted to go into politics. Getting to see a whole different culture sounded perfect for that extra understanding of how it works. After doing my research, Projects Abroad seemed like the perfect programme. I decided on Tanzania, due to the country’s safety and well known safaris.

Volunteering abroad

Volunteering in Tanzania

I worked in a total of four different hospitals, as I was in a medical based learning group. It was so interesting to see how different medicine was practiced, and how many local doctors cared about their community. I not only had the chance to shadow doctors during my two weeks, but I also was able to distribute medication to the community, take vital signs and interact with all the patients.

In Tanzania, all of the patients were so thankful for my time there and trusted us fully with what we were supposed to do. I go to a medical based high school, so I was amazed to see some of the things I read in textbooks take place right before my eyes. I never understood how serious Malaria truly is, until I saw patients lined throughout the ward fighting to get back to health. I also witnessed cases of HIV, meningitis and tuberculosis. Seeing the diseases made me even more interested in a career in tropical medicine, as one day I want to continue travelling around Africa in an effort to end the diseases that haunts many in their countries.

When not working, I had some of the coolest experiences. One minute I was on a van through a National Park to see the big game animals and then another moment I watched the Maasai villagers perform their traditions.

Projects Abroad provided a supportive and entertaining staff. I never felt in any danger or any point of being uncomfortable with my living space. Every morning, I would go downstairs to be warmly greeted by my friendly host family and other volunteers to have a nice authentic breakfast. While towards the end I definitely missed American meat, the experience was incredible and I tried many new dishes. One of my favourites was Chipati. Chipati was made every day and is essentially fried flatbread. I loved it with the African herbal tea and peanut butter. Also, the staff always knew exactly what they were doing, and all the plans were in place before I got there. This made for a seamless transition between activities, and no time wasted.

Free time in Tanzania

Volunteering abroad

Some of the best times I had during the trip were at the dinner table. I loved sharing thoughts about the world with people from all over it, and we discussed everything from politics to economics to our day. Each meal started with a favourite thing about the day, so we always had a positive experience from the start of it. Talking to Europeans provided me with a new insight to how life outside of NJ is.

I appreciated how the staff understood how hard it was to go without American food for two weeks, so some of the best excursions were to a local meat market. While it was certainly not American meat like steak, it was an incredible experience, and perhaps even better. The market was mystical with smoke everywhere and the fresh smell of goat. We had a little buffet, and that memory is one that will definitely last forever.

When I grow up I plan on becoming a doctor who travels the world in search of the people in the most need. I have always had a love of adventure and travel. Here at Projects Abroad I combined both in an incredibly enjoyable experience that made me confirm that this is what I want to do with my life. The people in Tanzania are some of the friendliest people I have ever met and I was devastated to have had to say goodbye. Projects Abroad made the whole experience possible, instead just a dream far away, and for that I am forever grateful.

Timothy Scafaria

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