Of happy, impressive and sad experiences

by Alina Kuffner, Manuela Kiechle/RBU,  2012/03/12

Last year Alina Kuffner and Manuela Kiechle finished their training as paediatric nurses. But instead of taking on a job at a German hospital and choosing a safe and well-known path, the two young women decided to take a more extraordinary first step into professional life.

From looking at this picture of cheerful Alina Kuffner, you would not think that she also lived through sad moments. Photo: humedica/Manuela Kiechle

Eager for getting to know new things and at the same time uncertain what this would mean for them in particular, the two young women from the Allgäu set out to Niger. They assisted at the humedica hospital in Kollo for a period of five months and at the end of February they returned to Germany with numerous newly gained impressions that included all kinds of ups and downs from sad moments to happy events.

“We had both been dreaming of working in an African country for years. After finishing our training as paediatric nurses, we were given the opportunity to go to Niger with humedica for a period of five months. This was the first time we travelled to Africa, and hence we discovered a world that had been unknown to us up to this day. Every day was a new adventure and the things we experienced have changed our lives.

Such a long-time mission has many advantages: we had the opportunity to live with the people and to become a part of their every-day life. Apart from our daily work at the hospital, we made friends among the local staff who gave us a fascinating insight into the Nigerien way of life.

Step by step we became ever more familiar with the quite different way of thinking and living. For us, the Nigerien way of working – which is not particularly fast – was not always easy to understand, but we also realised that in this country everything simply takes more time and patience. For example, the long-awaited relief shipment from Germany arrived with a delay of several weeks, because it was stuck somewhere in Africa.

We had to learn how to deal with particular situations and to accept them the way they were. Back in Germany, we are now able to deal with many things in a more relaxed way. And when looking back to our work, we remember both happy and also many sad moments.

For us as German paediatric nurses, it was sometimes hard to accept the differences between Niger and Germany when it came to treating patients, above all ill children. Our objective was to sensitise the staff to be more attentive towards their little patients and to set greater store by interhuman relations in medical care. In the end, it seemed that our mission was successful.

Famine is threatening the people and preventive measures are taken at the humedica hospital and at the surrounding health stations in order to counteract it. Photo: humedica/Alina Kuffner

However, there were also days and weeks, when we had a hard time. Above all, when we left the humedica hospital for three weeks in order to work at a national hospital in the capital of Niamey and were confronted with the full extend of suffering and poverty in the country which was more pronounced in Niamey than in Kollo.

The fact that children died, although their state of health was not life-threatening, made us very sad. Since this time coincided just with the time around Christmas, these weeks were very hard on us. We were missing our families and friends and there were moments when we just wanted to board a plane and go home.

But looking back, also this difficult time was one of impressive and useful experiences for our personal and professional lives.

We saw many undernourished children, shocking diseases and deformities, we were appalled by the bitter poverty and the degree of underdevelopment in Niger, but we were also fascinated by the friendliness of the people and their culture. We are grateful for every single moment we had in Niger and we will remember above all the numerous positive experiences we had.

We are also very grateful to you, the humedica team, for the fact that you enabled us to have such a great time and we hope that this was not our last mission with humedica!

With lots of love,
Alina Kuffner & Manuela Kiechle”

Dear friends of our work: due to the threatening famine we depend on your help more than ever. Please make a targeted donation in order to support the humedica hospital in Niger and the surrounding health stations, where ill and starving people are offered shelter and aid.

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Hospital Kollo
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
      SWIFT/BIC-CODE: BYLADEM1KFB
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

For five months, West Africa was their home. Five months which Alina Kuffner (left) and Manuela Kiechle (right) will never forget. Photo: humedica

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