Ethiopia travel report by Jessica Royce
My purpose for travel to YirGalem, Ethiopia, was to produce a short promotional documentary for the newly found charity; Wales for Africa health link.
The Wales for Africa health link is a fairly new charity set up by the government. At the moment the charity do not ask or rely on donations, but are funded by the Welsh assembly government. For the past three years the money has been used to send out doctors and nurses from the Wrexham maelor hospital to Yirgalem hospital, Ethiopia, in order to teach staff and medical students as well as help care for some of the patients. The charity wants to start expanding and get more attention from the public, so they wanted some video evident of their trip to show the government as well as to put on the website to try and promote it.
Myself, two doctors and my mother who is a nurse, took a 20.10 flight to Dubai on Friday 2nd March leaving from Manchester airport flying with Emirates. We arrived in Dubai at 07.10, local time and took a connecting flight to Addis Ababa at 08.25 where we arrived at 11.25, local time. From here we were met by a driver from Yirgalem hospital who then drove us 7 hours south of Addis Abba by jeep to YirGelam hospital. The roads were run down and busy but our driver drove safe and steadily. We arrived at the hospital around 8.00 and were greeted by Dr Samuel who explained to us our accommodation arrangements. We were then taken to the Furrah institute of development where we were given rooms to stay in. Travelling back, we left our accommodation on Saturday the 10th March at 9.00 and were driven by the same driver in the same vehicle where we arrived at the airport around 4.00. Our flight from Addis Ababa to Dubai left at 19.35 and arrived at 00.35, local time. From Dubai we caught our connection flight to Manchester at 03.00 and arrived at 07.35, local time. Again our flights were with Emirates. Both flights were completely full and I was unable to sleep both their and back. This was extremely exhausting.
Our accommodation was situated in YirGelam at the Furrah Institute of Development. This was a place of study which had a small halls of residence at the rear of the grounds. The rooms were basic; two single beds, a desk, a closet and an en suite which were cleaned every morning. There was also a restaurant on site which only had a small basic menu to choose from but this was fine. During the stay there, there was no running water available which meant having to wash with water provided in buckets each morning. There were also a lot of problems with electricity as it only seemed to work for a few hours each night and day. This became a huge problem for me as each night I was unsure if I was going to be able to charge my camera battery. If electricity was out all night I would not be able to charge my camera which would mean missing out on several hours of vital filming the next day. Fortunately electricity would come on for a few hours during the middle of the night so I was able to charge the battery. The only night that was a problem was Wednesday 7th, where electricity didn’t come on, and I was due to film surgery at 9am the next day. It was very important that this surgery was filmed as it was an abnormal peripheral aneurism, larger than any the vascular surgeon had ever seen before, so it was vital that the Welsh government got a chance to see the difficulty of the surgery. I managed to get around this problem by charging my camera until 10am at the hospital, and using a doctor’s camera to film with. The quality was not as good but the surgery took 5 hours, so I was still able to get decent footage with my own camera.
The hospital was situated five minutes’ drive from our accommodation. We were picked up by a hospital driver at 08.00 each morning and then driven back at 17.00. The hospital was fenced off and had security guards at the gates at all times. Visiting took place twice a week which meant the majority of the time is was quiet due to only patients being around. The hospital was very small and was built by Norwegians in the 1960’s. The conditions were awful. Equipment was old and rusty and in some places parts of the roof had disappeared. There were some patients with horrific injuries left to rest in the corridors due to lack of space. There were broken windows, locks and doors and there were a lot of insects on the wards. Most of the patients there were in very bad conditions and many needed surgery they could not afford. The doctors and nurse travelling for the charity last year had taught the other doctors and nurses about hygiene and cleanliness and they had continued putting this advice to use. There were several lectures given by the Wales for Africa team to medical students and also workshops were set up to give the staff a better insight into how things such as plastering and club foot deformities are dealt with. There was a large paediatrics ward with children suffering mainly from diseases such as malaria, hepatitis, polio, malnutrition and others. I found myself overwhelmed by the majority of the cases I saw in the hospital to the extent I struggled to sleep at night. Before travelling I had watched several documentaries filmed in Africa, and also watched a lot of clips on YouTube of Comic Relief appeals that were filmed in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia in order to prepare myself for what I was going to see, but I was quickly aware that this hospital was much worse than any that had been featured in these appeals and documentaries. It was upsetting to see people with such poor health in such bad conditions and as a young girl growing up in in the UK I have known nothing but large clean hospitals where the health care is free and where people who are extremely ill are treated with the best of care, so this was a real eye opener for me.
On arrival at the hospital I spoke with the manager about filming on the hospital grounds for the week. He was happy to sign a location release form and allowed me to place a sign at the entrance explaining that filming would be taking place. He asked that if anybody asked not to be recorded would I respect their wishes, which I agreed too. I also asked any doctors who were being filmed if they could sign an individual release form, I tried asking several patients but most didn’t understand me, though almost all patients were eager to be filmed, always asking to see their photos and footage back and laughing about it. Taking my camera on the children’s ward also went better than I expected as a lot of the children would really enjoy being filmed and their parents were more than happy to let them be. Most children couldn’t stop laughing after I played footage back to them, this cheered up a lot of people on the ward. I filmed using a Canon 550D and recorded some sound using Marantz and an indoor microphone which was provided to me by UCLan. I was extremely happy with the footage recorded and believe it will be more than enough to make the professional documentary that they want for the charity, and to get myself a decent grade as my final project for my Film production degree.
Bupa hospital Wrexham have also agreed to play my footage on a loop, on the televisions in there waiting areas to raise awareness for the charity. This will also be a great contributing factor to write about in my report for my degree, and something to write on my CV.
With the money I was granted from the travel bursary scheme I was able to travel to a part of Ethiopia that gave me a true insight to African life, untouched by humanitarian tourism and a real eye opener. The country and people were very different to what I had originally expected, I felt welcomed by everybody I met, and although at first I was scared to travel to such a third world country I actually felt quite comfortable there. The footage I recorded is beyond my expectations and I, as well as the doctors I travelled with are extremely happy with it. I believe this experience will have a positive impact on my final mark in my degree and will also be helpful when looking for a career. I used the money I was granted to pay for my flights, medical jabs, accommodation, my visa and my food. I would not have been able to have this experience if it was not for the travel bursary scheme, and for this I am very grateful. When my documentary is completed I am happy for UCLan to use it.