“My Experience at St. Francis”
By Kitty Bird, 3rd Year Medical Student, Ireland
My time is St. Francis was incredible – I arrived very nervous to experience such a different hospital environment, with diseases I had never come across. I visited St. Francis because of my friend Tiernan, he had stayed there the year before and told me all about it and how kind everyone in St. Francis and Katete had been, and how much he learned.
Our accommodation and food was provided in the hospital campus and we felt very safe and comfortable we stayed in little apartments with their own kitchens and bathrooms so we could cook our own food if we wanted to. We also had 3 meals a day and laundry included in our accommodation cost, provided by Tanzan and the other mess staff. The food was always delicious and anytime I went in to see if they had an extra bread roll for me they would come out with a full plate of rolls freshly baked. All of this came at a really good price for us and was definitely affordable for students.
The staff were all incredibly kind to us and welcomed us instantly – particularly Dr. Tim and rest of his team that I started out with in Internal Medicine. It was all very new to me – some of the diseases I had never even heard of, how they treated patients with so much less resources than at home in Ireland, patients who spoke a different language – but the team took so much time to answer my questions, explain what patients were saying and what was going on, and showed me a whole new range of clinical skills. The dedication and perseverance of the staff was incredibly admirable, especially in such a challenging environment – and this was probably the biggest thing I took away from St. Francis, that when I graduate hopefully I can return and help the hospital in the life changing work they’re doing.
We also loved staying in Katete and going into town to explore the markets, play pool and cards and go dancing. Everyone in Katete was incredibly welcoming, and every Thursday we went with some of the doctors for dinner in Pangani Lodge – which was always delicious. We made so many new friends, who we played music with, learned Chichewa, drove around Katete, and learned how to tie our Chitenges hahaha. I will never forget everyone we met in Katete and St. Francis hospital and hope to see everyone again next summer!
I am very happy that I could see where the money we raised is going to and that I was lucky enough to meet the people it will help. I also learned so much from a medical perspective – giving medications, writing patient notes, assisting in Caesarian sections. I am so grateful to St. Francis for the opportunity they give to students and for all the work they do in Katete and neighbouring towns. I will absolutely be back next summer to do the same, with more skills to assist and learn from the brilliant staff of St. Francis. Zikomo Kwambiri!!