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Volunteers assist over 1,000 Sri Lankans through medical outreach programmes

Projects Abroad Medicine volunteers test blood sugar and blood pressure at medical outreach camp in rural ColomboThis summer in Sri Lanka, Projects Abroad has hosted more medical outreach programmes than ever before. Although such programmes have been run in Sri Lanka for over a decade, this is the first time that short-term medical volunteers have assisted in organising the camps. Projects Abroad Sri Lanka has greatly benefited from the enthusiasm and commitment of these young volunteers. By assisting Sri Lankan doctors on outreach programmes, our volunteers have helped over 1,000 patients, most with limited access to regular healthcare.

The medical camps take place in and around the Western Province. From rural Remunagoda to urban Colombo, we organise outreach programmes 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 such communities directly, to fill in these gaps.”

Projects Abroad Medicine volunteers with Sri Lankan doctors at medical outreach camp in rural ColomboVolunteers organised six medical camps, 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, allowing doctors to see a higher number of patients. Through hands-on activity, volunteers experience 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 programmes 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 the volunteers with valuable experience in patient and stress management.

Projects Abroad Medicine volunteer from Hong Kong tests blood sugar and blood pressure at medical outreach camp in rural Colombo“The greatest advantage of medical outreach programmes 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 programmes, which are supplementary to our regular volunteer 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 organisation, 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.

Read more about Medicine and Healthcare in Sri Lanka.

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