Three Days at the Disability Hospital

|   Guest Post

"Our time at CCBRT was remarkable."

In March, Gus and Zach Dunnett, friends of CCBRT, traveled from their home in the UK to Dar es Salaam. They spent 3 days at the Disability Hospital, where they met with staff and patients to learn more about the organisation’s work and the role of technology in healthcare. Below, Zach reflects on the experience and shares two moments from his time at CCBRT.

In mid-March Gus and I had the fantastic opportunity to visit CCBRT in Dar es Salaam. We are both 18 and about to head off to university. Having won a travel scholarship to investigate the role of technology in mobile health, I jumped at the opportunity to visit CCBRT’s Disability Hospital to see the exciting things that are happening there. Gus and I spent 3 days at the Disability Hospital, which was enough time to really get a feel for the place. Although we had a number of amazing experiences, there were two moments in particular that really stuck out to us.

The first experience was observing a cataract operation. It was our first time in theatre, and it was extraordinary to see the skill of the doctors. While we were told it was a simple operation, it still looked like rocket science to us. We met the patient before and after the surgery, which was very special, and we were amazed to learn how much the operation would change the patient’s life. By restoring their sight, the cataract operation would essentially give the patient back their independence, and it was amazing to be a part of that experience, if only for a day. That surgery is something I will never forget.

The second experience that really touched us was meeting the women receiving treatment for obstetric fistula. When we met the ladies, they immediately realised that Gus and I are identical twins. We instantly felt the warmth of the women, who were so friendly to us. Twins are seen as a gift in Tanzania, and we were quickly assigned our new names of Doto (meaning “younger” for me) and Kulwa (for Gus, being older). It was also amazing to learn how M-Pesa is being used to such a positive effect and changing people’s lives in the fistula programme. Here’s how it works: CCBRT uses ambassadors, who work in communities around the country, to identify women with symptoms of obstetric fistula. When a woman with fistula is identified, the ambassador notifies CCBRT staff, who then send money to the ambassador via M-Pesa. This money is used to buy a bus ticket for the woman to travel to Dar es Salaam with the ambassador, where they will receive treatment free of charge at the Disability Hospital. It was also extraordinary to find out how far the ladies had traveled to get to Dar es Salaam for treatment.  Similar to the cataract operation, the thing that really touched us was how much the operation changed their lives.

Overall, our time at CCBRT was remarkable. The organisation is doing some truly incredible work and we realise how lucky we both were to see the things we saw and meet the people we met. We would both like to thank Erwin Telemans, the CEO, and everyone at CCBRT who made our time there so special.