Individual Grants for Volunteering is a grant we provide for young people aged 11-25 who want to participate in a volunteering project! The grant can be used for a project in the UK or abroad and helps assist a young person taking part in the project with a one-off grant of up to £400 per person. In celebration of the Power of Youth Day, we highlighted one outstanding case of Jasmine, who used the grant to transform the lives of those from Australia and Nepal.
My name is Jasmine, and I’ve just finished my final year of medical school at King’s College London. The Jack Petchey Foundation awarded me a grant to help fund my elective – this is a period spent away from medical school, usually abroad, in any chosen speciality.
I wanted to achieve three things –
- Do something I’d never experienced before in medicine;
- Gain a deeper understanding of rural medicine; and
- Broaden my knowledge of worldwide healthcare systems.
…and I’d love to tell you exactly how I achieved these!
I started by flying alone to a remote outback town in Australia called Broken Hill. As a lifelong Londoner, the outback was completely different – I was literally in the desert, with sand (and bugs! so many bugs!) everywhere.
I spent three weeks here, volunteering with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). The RFDS provides life-saving medical care to critically ill people in the outback who may live hundreds of kilometres away from their nearest hospital. I took part in aeromedical retrievals, transporting patients to hospitals via plane. Some of these patients were very sick when we got to them, making the RFDS an integral part of Australia.
I also enjoyed taking part in GP clinics in these rural communities. One was in Innamincka, where the population is just 44! Some towns were so far away that there was even a 30-minute change in time difference from Broken Hill.
Furthermore, I learnt a lot about Indigenous health. It was incredible watching the team working with Indigenous patients, and it taught me the importance of preventative medicine and understanding the social determinants of health.
The RFDS Broken Hill base team are among the most kind, welcoming and inspiring people I have ever met. It was a privilege to have been able to work with them. You can read more about them here, and I encourage anyone to donate to them if you can!
Some of my favourite things about Broken Hill were the museums and Aboriginal art galleries, watching the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and seeing the Milky Way every night. I was also lucky enough to make some wonderful friends for life!
I then flew to Nepal, where I met some of my friends from med school, and spent three weeks in the paediatric unit of Western Regional Hospital, Pokhara. I learnt a lot about the public healthcare system there; much of what I saw was due to the lack of funding; for example, many children had measles and tuberculosis (which would have been rare in the UK), highlighting the vaccination gap in Nepal.
I worked both in the wards, assisting in ward rounds, interpreting scans, and interacting with the kids and their families. In the outpatient department, I examined babies and discussed their diagnoses and management plans with the doctors.
I was also lucky enough to take part in a rural village post! What I found particularly interesting was the similarity of this village placement to the rural GP clinics in Australia, despite being so far apart and on different continents. The health presentations were similar in both countries, with patients presenting at extremes of health, and there was a vital element of preventative medicine.
What I loved the most was being able to experience a homestay with a Nepali family. We bonded so much with them and, as a result, learned about a new culture. I am so grateful to them for their kindness and hospitality.
Whilst in Nepal, we got to do a lot of other fun activities too – exploring Kathmandu, a safari trip to Chitwan National Park, paragliding, and I also did the world’s second-highest bungee jump at 228m! We couldn’t go to Nepal without trekking – so we went up Poon Hill (2,874m) to watch the sunrise – in preparation for a much bigger, 7-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp (4,130m), where the views were breath-taking!
I cannot thank the Jack Petchey Foundation enough for their generosity and support. It has been an incredible learning experience that will influence my practice as a new doctor. But even though the aims of my elective were solely medical, I learnt SO many life skills: going to the outback alone taught me to be independent; bungee jumping gave me a taste for thrill-seeking and embracing new challenges; trekking in Nepal was sometimes harsh, but it helped me build resilience and showed me that I’m mentally stronger than I give myself credit for.
I embraced a sense of adventure and would encourage others to do the same!
Want to volunteer and help transform lives? Head over to our Individual grants for Volunteering page to find out more info on how to apply for the grant!