Earlier this year, Adonye Banigo volunteered for Sound Seekers in Ndola, Zambia. We asked him about his experience and what advice he would give to anyone planning to volunteer with Sound Seekers.
Q Why did you agree to volunteer for Sound Seekers in Zambia?
A Well, volunteering for Sound Seekers was sort of my idea. Sound Seekers provides a perfect combination of my chosen specialty as a doctor (Ear, Nose and Throat surgery) and my passion for improving the lives of children and adults in the developing world. I approached Sound Seekers in August 2011 and expressed my desire to volunteer, I also attended the AGM in December 2011 and saw some of the work being done. At the time there didn’t really seem to be any projects I could get involved in, until Emily Bell came along. And anyone who knows Emily knows how passionate she is about projects in the developing world. It was an interesting turn of events because I had got used to pestering Sound Seekers about getting onto a volunteer project; now I was having to explain to Emily that a year of volunteering was probably a bit too long for me! Next thing I knew I was jetting off to Lusaka. I was willing to go to any African country, really and Zambia just happened by chance, but I cannot emphasise how blessed and lucky I am to have visited such a beautiful country with amazing people.
Q How did it feel volunteering in an African country having lived in the U.K. for so long?
A It felt wonderful volunteering in an African country, it was easy to settle in and mix with the locals. I did voluntary work in Gambia and Senegal during medical school so I have had some experience of volunteering in Africa. I remember back then it struck me how different other West African countries were from my home country, Nigeria. Zambia was even more different, from the weather which distinctly lacked humidity to the tolerant calm people that always seemed willing to help. African countries are very unique with different healthcare needs, so I learnt the importance of targeting my volunteering experience to areas of most need.
Q What was the high point for you?
A The HARK! out-reach in Kanseshi Basic School for the deaf was an amazing experience. It was a busy two days where we saw many students and tested their hearing. What made it special was seeing how the students did not let their hearing and speech impairment affect their ability to interact. They were outgoing, confident and entertaining.
In a brief interlude during the day, we had a deaf musician perform and he got everyone on their feet showing off their dance moves. Emma Case photographed many of these fantastic moments.
Q What do you feel you gained from the experience?
A I learnt that even though I am still in training to become a qualified ENT surgeon, I have acquired knowledge and skills I can use to improve the lives of deaf people in the developing world. I gained more confidence and a feeling of self-worth, a contrast to life working in the NHS where one can feel insignificant and not appreciated at times. From all the staff I met in the different hospitals I visited in Zambia, I have gained a lot of friends who are like my family now and I know we will continue to keep in touch for many years to come.
Q How do you feel the work Sound Seekers does makes a difference in developing countries?
A Sound Seekers is doing significant work in developing countries and making a huge impact on many lives. The HARK! outreach service provides primary ear care to individuals in remote areas. The training courses funded by Sound Seekers are building local knowledge and expertise. The equipment we supply is aiding diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose and throat disorders. Now we are looking to set up local training courses in Zambia for ENT clinical officers, which will help boost the numbers of clinicians with ENT expertise in the country. I feel privileged to be a part of Sound Seekers and I hope more funding becomes available to help support our work.
Q What three pieces of advice do you have for other potential volunteers?
A Do it, do it, do it! Volunteering for Sound Seekers is an experience that will stay with you for life for all the right reasons. And because Sound Seekers is a relatively small organisation, it is personable and has a close-knit group of staff that will make sure you are looked after when you volunteer. If you don’t quite feel up to jetting off to an African country you know little about, there are lots of other ways you can volunteer by raising money locally through charity events, etc. Get in touch with the very nice Sound Seekers team for more info.
Q If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
A I would eradicate poverty and the disparity between the rich and the poor because poverty is a common denominator in individuals in developing countries with poor health.
Q What are your future plans? Are there any more missions on the horizon?
A I have lots of plans for the future, but in relation to volunteering I have no further missions planned as yet but watch this space…