In Cameroon

    Doing so much with so little

    Marina & Alba (SPAIN)

    Alba and Marina, teamed up to lead a volunteer hospital management project in Cameroon. They returned home with new perspectives on the work they do for the company they work for and with personal experiences that changed their lives.

    Alba has a special passion for giving back to communities in Africa. In past years, she volunteered teaching english in some schools in Kenya and Tanzania, and also as a Healthcare Consultant designing a Business Strategy and Marketing Plan for Latin American Markets to promote an online diabetes course for healthcare providers. This year, Alba was eager to return to Africa to add new value by leveraging the skills she uses every day working for a pharmaceutical company.

    Alba chose to volunteer on a hospital management project in Cameroon with a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to minimize gaps in the delivery of health services and to improve accessibility of healthcare in Africa. “I decided on this NGO because it implements sustainable projects in Africa. They invest in the country’s infrastructure and continuously exchanges information and best practices with hospitals in Spain,” says Alba.

    Alba invited her colleague Marina to partner with her on the project. Although she had no prior experience volunteering in Africa, Marina accepted right away. She shares, “This was an excellent opportunity for me to grow personally and professionally while making a difference in the lives of others.”

    In addition to three weeks of required training from the NGO, Alba and Marina spent three months preparing for their trip by conducting research. Equipped with information about the country’s healthcare system and feedback from other volunteers, Alba and Marina embarked on their three-week journey in August 2018. They traveled to San Martin de Porres Hospital, located in a suburb of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, where they lived in a house with 10 other volunteers. Each day, the volunteers joined the hospital staff for a meeting where the prior day’s work was recapped and doctors conducted short education and training segments.

    Alba and Marina’s project focused on creating an advanced hospital equipment management model that the NGO can apply to new hospitals it plans to open in Africa. They began their work by meeting with doctors and patients to get feedback about San Martin de Porres Hospital. Then, Alba and Marina mapped out the steps needed for adding equipment to a new hospital, including recommendations for the different types and brands, estimated prices, prioritization, and the rationale for each.

    During their time in Cameroon, Alba and Marina learned valuable lessons that they can apply to their work.. Marina shares, “One of the key learnings was being able to do so much with so little. If we apply this to our work—with all the resources we have—we could do amazing things.” Alba and Marina also strengthened their interpersonal skills. “We needed the doctors to understand that this was a shared experience—not that we knew more than them. Once they were engaged in our project, we started proposing ideas,” says Alba.

    Volunteering their time to help others also changed Alba and Marina’s personal perspectives. Marina says, “I can say that I’m a different person now. It’s true that for everything you give, you get back just as much.” Alba agrees, adding, “If everyone makes a small contribution, it’s the first step to bigger things.”

    Alba and Marina would like to return to Africa next year. In fact, they already have a group of around 10 colleagues who are interested in joining them.