Amanda Margoles - Nursing in Togo
I graduated from nursing school five months prior to going to Togo. I spent my five months getting my license, travelling and looking for a job. When I realised that it would take me a long time to find a job I decided to look into volunteering in another country. I had a friend that went to Nepal with Projects Abroad and she said she had a positive experience. So I looked on the Projects Abroad site and decided I wanted to go to Africa and a country that spoke French.
I had taken six years of French in school and college, and felt it would be a great opportunity to practise it again. The two countries that I needed to choose between were Togo and Senegal. I was told by a friend that Togo was less developed than Senegal and decided that I wanted to go there. I felt that it would help give me a sense of appreciation being from the US.
I am 29 years old and I did not think I would be the oldest volunteer, but I was at the time. Most of the volunteers were 18-20 years old. This did not make me uncomfortable nor did it affect my experience. In fact with how much travelling I have done in the past I felt that my age made it easier for me to adjust to living in Togo. I experienced others complaining to me constantly about the weather, the public transportation, the cleanliness, etc. I think that if I had not had the experience I had I would have done the same and been homesick.
Arriving in Togo
I have travelled a lot, so when I arrived in Togo it was not much of a shock to me. My flight arrived at night and I had a fellow volunteer with me who I happened to meet in the airport. We were greeted at the airport by Rodrigue from Projects Abroad. Rodrigue asked us about our flight and questions about our lives. We arrived at our car where we were greeted by Koffi our driver. We saw Koffi a lot throughout our volunteering at the office.
We first went to take the other volunteer to her host family’s house. Afterwards we went to mine and I met my wonderful family. I had a host mother, brother and house girl. My stay with them was wonderful. They were very friendly and welcoming and made me a part of their family.
My mama taught me how to cook traditional Togolese food and my brother took me out to show me the neighbourhood or take me to get things I needed. We also had many regular family friends that visited who made me feel welcome as well. My room had air conditioning, which came in handy from time to time. I had an overall great experience with them.
My Nursing Project
I was assigned to a hospital in the quarter Kegue. It was a community hospital that had some Chinese doctors and nurses working there. I volunteered in paediatrics for two weeks, and then in maternity for two weeks. The staff in paediatrics was very welcoming and allowed me to follow anyone around and explain what was going on. I mainly shadowed the doctors in paediatrics as they did rounds, and would also help out the nurses to do the heights and weights for children coming in for immunisations.
When I went to maternity there was not as much opportunity as I had hoped. I did however get to help out with a few vaginal births and watch some procedures. It would have been nice to have seen a caesarean section but the only opportunity I had to see one had passed.
In my free time I was able to travel to Benin and Ghana. A group of us went to Pendjari Park in Northern Benin. We first spent one night in Cotonou, which is the country’s largest city. We arrived at night and left early in the morning so unfortunately we did not spend much time there. We then spent 15 hours travelling by bus and car to arrive at the park.
We did a two day safari and saw hippos, wart hogs, baboons, deer, lions and elephants. It was an amazing experience that I would highly recommend anyone to do if they have enough time for the two days of travel that is required to arrive there.
A friend and I went to Ghana and we stayed in Accra for one night. We visited the national museum and a memorial park for Dr. Kwame. We then travelled west along the coast and stayed one night in Kokrobite and three nights in Cape Coast. We visited the slave castles, where the slaves were kept until they were shipped out to wherever they were being sent to. It was wonderful to be able to have the opportunity to venture out to other countries to maximize my experience in Africa.
I met many people from different countries through Projects Abroad. Not only was the trip an opportunity to learn about Togolese culture and living, but by interacting with others from different countries I was able to learn about those countries and learn a lot about the world. I met a young man from Sweden and we travelled to Benin and Ghana together.
By having this close interaction I learnt a lot about the Swedish government and economy, and also their culture. For example, he told me that in Sweden people do not proudly display the Swedish flag, nor does the government make statements such as “God bless Sweden” or anything similar. In the US, both these things are done everywhere and our Presidents have made statements as well. It is common to show patriotism and show that you are proud and love your country.
Overall I am glad to have had this experience. I always enjoy and appreciate learning about new countries and a different culture. I will treasure my time in Togo and know that it will influence me for the rest of my life.