Lucia and Elisabetta, ages 22 and 25, both had the strong desire to get to know Africa. There was no doubt in Lucia’s mind when she attended the Michele Mega Scholarship Project presentation at the University, she wanted to apply for the 2022 edition: «Listening to the testimonies and the stories, seeing the faces of the female students who left before me was the motivational drive. Today I realize that the time spent in the field was much more than an experience, it was an opportunity for professional and personal growth».
For Elisabetta, Africa has always been her calling: «I decided to enrol in the Obstetric degree program because my dream is to work in developing countries. Winning the Mega scholarship and learning the profession in a hospital with limited resources was a profound moment of living with Africa. I will be working hard so that it can be repeated in the future!».
Being very young, this was the first trip to Africa for Lucia and Elisabetta: a window to understand how to practice health cooperation with, the true mission of Doctors with Africa CUAMM. Ethiopian obstetricians followed the students in their internship journey, gifting satisfaction and precious memories. «The greatest gratification – for Lucia – was when, at the end of a long day, the head nurse told me: ‘You will be a very good obstetrician!’. These words filled my heart, because I did not expect them».
Elisabetta, on the other hand, cannot forget the relationships she formed with patients, «I felt gratified in so many small moments when I was able to be ‘home’ for a mother to-be. Sometimes, all it takes to reassure a woman in labour is a look. Eyes speak and welcome ‘I am here with you now’ mine whispered. With one patient in particular it was exciting to build trust during a difficult birth, then, to find her after a long time by chance, with her healthy baby. She stopped to say goodbye and thanked me. It was proof that even if you meet for just a short time, the experience you share is intense and you cherish it forever».
The biggest obstacle for Lucia and Elisabetta was working in a setting with limited resources, where helplessness is often experienced. «Even though I was aware of what I was getting into – explains Lucia – being in a hospital where children are dying at any moment really tested me».
Grief is also processed through the support of colleagues, with whom friendships can be formed. With healthcare professionals, opinions are exchanged, skills are refined, cultures are compared. «I met an Ethiopian nurse, who invited me to her home. Her mom cooked lunch and, like all mums in the world, she was worried I was not eating enough. In Ethiopian families, when you have a guest, you offer kid, a delicacy. Because I am vegetarian, my colleague’s mom had to reinvent herself and she was great at cooking veggie dishes! On another occasion this friend of mine lent me a traditional dress to go visit an Orthodox church together, it was especially meaningful to me».
«We lived in a guest house – says Elisabetta – together with the medical residents, the Junior Project Officers, with whom we teamed up. Many interesting people came through here, like a computer scientist without borders, designers, doctors. A really constructive melting pot!».
What about the future? Lucia and Elisabetta are now busy writing their thesis, dedicated precicesly to their experience in Wolisso. «After graduation, I would like to do Universal Civil Service with CUAMM, before finding a job», Lucia concludes. «Before going back to Africa – Elisabetta expresses – I would like to deepen my training, practicing in Italian hospitals, and then live in the field and offer a complete clinical background!».