Jessica Baker and Lydia Lewis: Make a Difference Abroad

Engineering World Health’s biomedical equipment technician (BMET) training programs build local, sustainable, and trained workforces of BMETs in Cambodia, Ghana, Rwanda and Honduras (and soon, Nigeria) in order to strengthen health systems from the ground up. Our programs, like many in the developing world, rely in part on volunteers. Each program hosts guest instructors who teach for a specified time period—whatever works for them and the program. Most of EWH’s volunteers are experienced BMETs or have related engineering skills.

We can think of many reasons to volunteer:

1) Satisfy your desire to give back: BMET training programs allow volunteers to apply their advanced technical knowledge and experience from developed nations to a humanitarian purpose where the need is great in developing countries. In under-resourced countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, some 40-70% of essential medical equipment is not operational (source: WHO).

2) Make a positive impact: Becoming a guest instructor allows for teaching that, in the beginning, is quite simple—but which has a massive impact. The opportunity to teach vital skills in a developing country will quickly improve the lives of hospital patients. Honduras volunteer Dr. Ram Ramabhadran stated in 2013 that volunteering “provided a quantum leap of personal growth for me and has given me the satisfaction of making a difference to global human health.”

3) Challenge yourself: Teaching in a developing country has its difficulties, but volunteers enjoy the challenge and appreciate the enthusiastic dynamics of the classroom environment. Helping to create and teach BMET curricula for these countries and their unique workplace obstacles allows for greater success in the long term.

4) See the world: Our work exposes volunteers to new places, languages, travel, and cultures that they may never have experienced!

5) Build a legacy: Volunteering with EWH’s BMET training programs is so rewarding because of the lasting effects of the work. No matter how long your stay, your teaching will result in sustainable outcomes. When EWH arrived in Rwanda, there were no BMETs in the country: now there are 58 who are trained and 82 students in prep-programs.

Volunteer EWH instructors help strengthen the entire healthcare system in the developing countries where they work by allowing for basic medical equipment to function instead of lying dormant. BMET volunteering is an experience not to be missed!

Jessica Baker is the manager of communications and development with Engineering World Health. Lydia Lewis is an intern with the nonprofit organization.

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