Marta Coll Lastras

Independent Placements

Volunteering in the most unreachable parts of Madagascar

Marta Coll Lastras, a junior sister at Cambridge University Hospitals received a grant from Cambridge Global Health Partnerships (formerly Addenbrooke’s Abroad) to do a placement with HoverAid, a charity that makes healthcare accessible for those in the most remote parts of Madagascar.

“One of the reasons I wanted to become a nurse, was because I wanted to help people who had limited access to healthcare. Last year I decided that the time was right to travel overseas, I didn’t know where to start, so I got in touch with Cambridge Global Health Partnerships. They have been really supportive from the beginning, Programme Officer – Neelam was very approachable and very encouraging from our first meeting and helped me find HoverAid.”

HoverAid, is a charity that works in Madagascar, with the aim to reach the unreachable. They regularly take teams of doctors to villages along the rivers with the use of a hovercraft, to remote locations as part of their medical healthcare programme, where they do consultations, dentistry, surgery and ultrasounds amongst other health checks and treatments.

My placement was in Beroroha, on the Mangoky river, where over 130, 000 people live along the main river and its many tributaries, have no access to healthcare.

The journey to Beroroha, was long and physically tiring, we travelled three days by car and then had to cross the river on a canoe. I can only imagine how people who were sick and needed medical assistance could cope with such a long and tiring journey to access emergency medical care.

It was an amazing experience to be part of such a supportive and lovely team. In Beroroha, we were sleeping in tents and having showers with buckets of water. In the camp, we were hosted by a welcoming Malagasy family. Living alongside the local community helped me to understand the local culture and healthcare situation.

Working in such a challenging environment with the Malagasy doctors, was such a hard and rewarding experience. we attended around 100 patients a day, some people walked long distances to attend the clinics and it was shocking for me to see patients who complained of symptoms there were having for months or even years.

It was such an incredible experience, I was able to adapt to work in a completely different environment and in a completely different culture.

I learnt a lot from the Malagasy healthcare professionals and the rest of the HoverAid team, including how important it is to maintain a positive spirit in difficult situations and always working to overcome challenges. I have returned to work with a sense of appreciated of the NHS.

Volunteering within such a different healthcare environment for the first time was definitely challenging at times, but the wealth of understanding I gained and using my skills to treat patients who, without HoverAid, would go with treatment, has reinvigorated me.

I will definitely be volunteering overseas again! Thank you to HoverAid for the amazing experience and for the invaluable work you do and to CGHP for your advice and support.”