“When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.”---a Chinese proverb
Why did I decide to volunteer two years of my time in what was once a strange land thousands of miles away from home? Probably to gain international experience and professional advancement, for the adventure of living in a new and exotic location and immerse myself in a totally different culture, to gain a fresh perspective of my own career, for the sheer satisfaction of being able to say “I did it!” I volunteer simply because I am a global citizen, and in this small world, we can all lend each other a helping hand, no matter where we come from.
In addition, we as a department were able incorporate evidence in our practice, improve our patient management skills, enhance our teaching and coaching skills, implement HIV and AIDS mainstreaming activities, conduct the first-ever Physiotherapy Awareness Week, publish and disseminate a monthly e-newsletter, Ethio Physio. The list goes on. The changes in the department also boosted the confidence of the local physiotherapists as it showed that by working together as a team towards common goals, they have the capacity to improve their skills and services even with limited resources.
My dealings with the Ethiopian people has somehow humbled and inspired me, for despite the difficult circumstances that they have to face on a daily basis, they are striving not only to survive but more so, to improve their lives. My young colleagues’ enthusiasm and genuine willingness to learn from me has given me the motivation to go on. Unknowingly, in the process, I was also learning from them, and learning a lot about myself.
I have learned that life still goes on even if we experience resistance in our work. I have learned that it’s not yet the end of the world when a project fails because there is always another alternative lurking around the corner if we just give ourselves time to reflect about our priorities against the priorities of others, accept that we can’t always do things our way and that common sense is sometimes more effective than knowledge gained from books, and lastly be humble enough to accept our weaknesses and rely on the strengths of our local colleagues.