High School Special medical volunteers assist over 1,000 Sri Lankans through medical outreach program
Over this past summer, Projects Abroad hosted more medical outreach programs than ever before in Sri Lanka. Although these kinds of programs have been run in Sri Lanka for over a decade, this is the first time that High School Special medical volunteers have been able to assist in organizing the camps. Projects Abroad Sri Lanka has benefited greatly from the enthusiasm and commitment of these young high school students. By assisting Sri Lankan doctors on outreach programs, our volunteers have helped over 1,000 patients, most of whom only have limited access to regular health care.
Medical camps in Sri Lanka take place in and around the Western Province. From rural Remunagoda to urban Colombo, we organize outreach programs that serve many of the nation’s ethnic and religious communities. Typically, each medical camp takes place following a request from a provincial government office, on behalf of its citizens.
Gishan Perera, director of Projects Abroad Sri Lanka, said: “There are many communities in the Western Province where men and women go without regular doctor’s visits. Collaborating with the local government, we are able to identify villages and neighbourhoods that are most in need. In some instances, locals may fear visiting a doctor. In others, the cost of transportation to public hospitals is prohibitive. Projects Abroad visits these communities directly to help fill in these gaps.”
High School Special volunteers helped organize six medical camps over the summer, each serving between 150 and 200 community members. Volunteers took part in reading and measuring blood pressure, assisting the pharmacist, and shadowing the local doctor. They also assisted with routine tasks, which allowed doctors to see a higher number of patients. Through hands-on activity, volunteers experienced the value of providing basic care to those in need and learn about conditions that critically impact Sri Lankans, such as diabetes.
Volunteer Coordinator Kaitlin McWhorter added that “medical camps generally take place in makeshift spaces, from community centres to Buddhist temples. By asking our volunteers to set up in these spaces, they are able to take ownership of the outreach programs and the services offered.”
Medical camps are often crowded, as it is difficult to know the precise number of patients who will attend. Word usually travels fast in the local villages, and turnout is always high. The medical camps therefore also provide volunteers with valuable experience in patient and stress management.
“The greatest advantage of medical outreach programs is that they serve as a primary health screening. Through the efforts of volunteers and local physicians, patients learn of their various medical conditions or afflictions for the first time. During medical camps, these individuals are given guidance in seeking further treatment at larger medical facilities,” shared Perera.
Spanish volunteer Aina Tersol Montserrat said: “Medical camps are a chance to address medical issues endemic to Sri Lanka, like high blood sugar. I have learnt a lot through assisting doctors in diagnosing these health conditions, but even more from the sheer number of patients that we see. These outreach programs, which are supplementary to our regular placement, allow us to have a meaningful influence through personal patient care on a massive scale.”
With a large reserve of medical supplies, Projects Abroad Sri Lanka is able to provide medication to those who attend the camps, as per the doctor’s prescription. As an independent organization, Projects Abroad is able to set up medical camps on short notice, providing community support where it is urgently needed and enabling volunteers to act as a vital link in the pursuit of global health and development.