Andrea Gross - Physiotherapy in India and Sri Lanka
Arriving in India
I have always been very interested in travelling abroad and helping others. I choose to do a Physiotherapy project in India because it has always been a country that has interested me. I also decided to take part in a Physiotherapy project in Sri Lanka for 3 weeks.
After the long journey from Milwaukee to India the Projects Abroad team picked me up. I immediately felt welcomed. It was incredible to see and experience a whole new country. I didn’t know what to expect, but it definitely was a change of pace, culture, and everyday life.
Physiotherapy in India
After a couple of days of settling in, my Projects Abroad advisor introduced me to the city and took me to my placement. Every day I spent my time volunteering at a school for children with special needs called Shine Special School. During my first day, I was shadowed the local staff, but after a while I got the chance to help one of the doctors with the children. My placement was structured with a mix of physiotherapy and occupational therapy activities. The placement was very interesting and was extremely different to the physiotherapy assignments in the USA.
One of my favourite parts of volunteering was taking part in the medical outreach programme. We visited the Family Planning Association of India which promotes sexual and reproductive health information while meeting needs for families, such as providing a room to sleep and food.
The clinic relies mostly on donations as it is only partly funded through the government. The clinic has several units such as a health care unit (free medical care to those in need), maternal and child health unit, care for post-natal mothers, and childcare. There is also a separate department for those living with HIV and counselling services to adolescents about sexual and reproductive health. The Projects Abroad volunteers got to set up a camp in one of the villages to help give basic medicine and check-ups to the locals. It was really a unique experience and the people were very grateful.
My host family in India
My host family in India was brilliant! My host Mum made delicious food and my host Dad liked to sing for us every now and then. I was never hungry because she always made plenty of food for us! The house I stayed in had four other volunteers including myself; three were from France and one was from the UK. It was so much fun to have company throughout my free time and even better getting to know everyone. This made me feel more at home, as I was never on my own and we also planned our weekend trips together.
During the week, the Projects Abroad volunteers would meet at a nearby hotel on a Tuesday evening to have dinner together. It was an awesome way to meet new volunteers and see where everyone was going to travel at the weekend. On Thursdays, the volunteers and the staff would meet to do a cultural activity such as playing cricket or having Henna done. I enjoyed having the opportunity to do activities that I wouldn’t do at home.
Arriving in Sri Lanka
After finishing my project in India and saying goodbye to my host family, which was really difficult, I made my way to Sri Lanka with a few of the other volunteers. Again, we were met by a member of the Projects Abroad team; she was really friendly and excited that we had all arrived.
She immediately made us feel welcome and took us to meet our host family that evening. My host parents were both doctors and they had three kids. I stayed with two other volunteers- one from Australia and one from Sweden. They were really nice and fun!
Physiotherapy in Sri Lanka
My Physiotherapy project was at Panadura Base Hospital in Sri Lanka. I could walk to and from my placement without any problems. At the hospital there were only two doctors who attended to more than 50 patients per day! It was crazy! I was able to do a lot of work with the patients and the patients were so thankful! They didn’t speak English, so when they would say, “thank you,” it meant a lot. The doctors and nurses were also very kind and helpful. They taught me about different injuries and illnesses I didn’t know about.
My experience travelling
The Projects Abroad volunteers also met in Sri Lanka once a week, at night, at a juice shop. There were so many juice places in Sri Lanka- for smoothies, milkshakes, etc. and all of them were delicious. I loved having a fresh fruit smoothie every day. Travelling on the weekends was a little easier than in India because the country is smaller. I found travelling in India more enjoyable because the country was so vast and there was so much to see. One of my favourite trips in Sri Lanka was the Jeep safari where we saw a jaguar right in front of our Jeep, it was so incredible!
The food in Sri Lanka was delicious; all the fruit and vegetables were fresh and the bread which you have with curries was homemade. I absolutely loved it. After eating with the family one evening we watched a movie called Frozen with the kids and had ice cream that I bought at the local supermarket. The kids loved to watch movies and they would really enjoy it when I would teach them gymnastics. We also liked to play Football in the yard as well.
My time in both India and Sri Lanka was so rewarding. To travel across the world alone and to volunteer was an incredible accomplishment. If anyone is willing to ever take off some time -a couple of weeks, a month, or a year to help other people on this programme it is definitely worth it. I had the time of my life and the experiences I had and the people I met will never be forgotten.