The most important thing I brought with me on my midwifery placement to Tanzania was equipment donations for the hospital. My friend and I managed to take out alcohol gel, goggles, plastic aprons, gloves, baby clothes and sterile needles and syringes. We also left the staff our scrubs and theatre clogs when we left. Giving the staff our donations on our last day really was the best part of our trip; they were so grateful and got so excited as they delved into the bags! They also insisted on dressing up every baby on the ward in a western baby grow. I have such lovely photos of that moment and the memories of it will stay with me forever, it was such a small thing for us but such a help to them, as they are very underfunded. I really would recommend bringing your own scrubs with you anyways, as the hospital did not have a lot of them. Plus it is safer for you and the patients if you are not transporting germs to and from the hospital- just as it is in England.
The next most important thing I brought with me was mosquito repellent, this was so so vital as the mosquito’s seemed to love me! Try and get the highest percentage DEET spray that you can. Only do not be surprised at the strength of it and let it fully dry before you get dressed as some other students had to pull my flip flops off of my feet as the DEET had made them melt to me! Sprays are also better than creams as it is quicker to apply and allows you more time to get out and about and have fun! The biggest tip I can give is: do not under any circumstance touch your eyes after applying DEET- it will hurt!
The thing I wished I had brought more of was more clothes; it’s surprising the rate you get through clothes in Africa! It is very easy to use up three outfits in one day- I tended to wear one outfit to work but by the time I had negotiated the dalla dalla bus and walked a little way on the dirt tracks I felt a little dirty! Plus the trip back to the Work the World house, so I would have a shower and change upon getting back. Then when it came to the evening’s festivities I would get changed again. Now bear in mind that there are no washing machines and you have to wash all your clothes by hand in cold water. Plus the clothes tended to dry slowly on the line- despite it being 30 degrees most of the time! This meant that I had a serious deficiency in clothes!
I would also recommend bringing an ipod and speakers as you do get a lot of time to relax and many of us would do this in the bedrooms, having music just made it that bit better. The speakers could be powered by batteries but the sockets are also UK sockets so it can be mains fed too. Don’t forget an ipod charger too!
With regards to food, I found there was more than enough at the house in the evening and I tended to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch as they were so yummy! We also had a store down the road that sold most items you would recognise in England, including chocolate! So I didn’t need to bring any food with me, I found that I put on weight during my time there!
I hope this has helped you a little and I wish you great fun on your elective!
Written by Kayleigh Hitchcock, midwifery student, University of Southampton