Volunteering our service is a noble deed
by Dr. Darisuren Chanrav
Port of Spain, Trinidad: My name is Darisuren Chanrav. I am a medical doctor from Mongolia and I am a returned UNV volunteer. I have been with UNV for almost nine years.
It was a great pleasure and a privilege for me to get this wonderful offer to spend a part of my life and time to serve the sick and poor as a UNV volunteer. During my assignment as a UNV volunteer I got the opportunity to travel and work in three different countries in the world, which by chance were all island nations.
My first UNV assignment was in the Republic of Kiribati, which is an extremely remote and a very isolated island nation comprising of sixteen small islands, located in the midst of the vast Pacific Ocean. I was the only one, and the first UNV volunteer from Mongolia in 1993.
Before my departure to Kiribati, Mr. Jan W. Sweitering, former UNDP Resident Representative to Mongolia, was very sceptical about me for taking this assignment and kept asking me whether or not I was sure that I should go to this remote island. I said, "Yes, because I want to help people".
I can still remember my arrival at Bonriki International Airport in Kiribati, when I was received by Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, the first UNV volunteer Medical Doctor to Kiribati from India. Before landing, when I looked out of the window I could see no houses, nothing but coconut trees and the vast ocean. I felt extremely scared and started thinking and asking myself: "How will I spend my two years here?"
Then I took a deep breath and calmed myself by saying to myself: "After all, no one really forced me to come here. I am a UNV volunteer, I have volunteer commitments and am here to serve the sick and poor people on my own will" and felt relaxed.
Two months later my family joined me at the duty station and I felt more relaxed and comfortable. My husband who is a specialized doctor in thoracic medicine was sub-contracted by the local Government and was serving as a lung specialist in the same hospital where I was posted.
I was assigned to the paediatric ward in Tungaru Central Hospital, in South Tarawa the capital of Kiribati, which was the only referral centre. I provided heath care and services to children and educated students and assistant nurses, plus parents, on child-care. I also worked as on-call doctor during nights and got the opportunity to serve a wider range of patients, including postpartum mothers and newborns.
My motto was 'prevention is better than cure' and my goal was to reduce child morbidity and mortality by conducting health education among parents and conducting prophylactic medical exams among children to detect sickness early and provide them with timely treatment and management.
Some people and children were at first not aware of my nationality and called me and my children ‘Chinese’. But after my and my husband’s visit to all the villages in South Tarawa and conducting outreach prophylactic medical exams among all the children and adults, providing them on-the-site medical care and services and referring the very sick to the hospital for in-patient treatment, people came to know us more closely.
My two year assignment in Kiribati passed very quickly and it was already time for me and my family to pack and get ready to head towards home. My and my spouse’s work staff, our supervisor and our patients were sad to see us leave. However, we had no choice, as we had to go home due to my family’s commitment. It was a nice experience and challenging to learn to live and adjust to an island life.
By my UNV assignment to Kiribati, not only the people of Kiribati benefited from my service, my family benefited a lot too. All my three kids learned the English language, which was a very big investment for them. Thanks to UNV.
My second assignment was to the Republic of Maldives, also an island nation in the Indian Ocean. I was stationed at the Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health in Male, the capital city of the Maldives. My main job was to coordinate Reproductive Health (RH) and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) projects and programmes.
In the Maldives, I used my knowledge as my weapon to impart and share my knowledge and skills with the doctors and health workers. I travelled extensively to many atolls and islands to conduct training on RH and HIV/AIDS to medical doctors, nurses, community and volunteer health workers and to evaluate the RH programme implementation. It was very challenging yet interesting to travel to the outer islands.
Once we were travelling to one of the islands to conduct a training workshop on a 'dhoni' (local name for a boat), we got lost in the midst of the ocean and had to spend the night on the boat. The following morning we had to leave very early at dawn, to arrive in time to start our training session.
My third and my last UNV assignment was to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which was the biggest island nation compared to the previous two I was assigned to. Trinidad and Tobago is located in the Caribbean Sea. Almost 100 UNV volunteer Medical Doctors were assigned to this country from various parts of the world.
At first, it was quite challenging for us to work in Trinidad, especially for the first batch of doctors. The local Medical Board and some local doctors were not ready to accept the UNV volunteer Medical Doctors. However, as time passed, things started moving positively and smoothly and we the UNV volunteer doctors became part of the health team and worked in line with the local doctors. The people and the community were very appreciative to what the UNV doctors were doing and how they were performing their job to make a difference in their lives and to contribute to development.
Now when I look back to my nine-year involvement in volunteerism, I can proudly say that I feel proud to have offered myself in voluntary activities in three different countries in the world. I am happy to have been part of the UNV team who have been and are contributing to the Millennium Development Goals.
Volunteerism can surely create change in society. I have seen it and I am left with wonderful memories to recollect from all my three UNV assignments, from which I have learned and accumulated a lot of experience in my life. I would like to once again thank UNV for providing me with this beautiful opportunity to volunteer my service and work for the health benefit of the people of at least three island nations of our world.
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