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Chiropractic graduate's African experience 'invaluable' despite being cut short by COVID-19

Published:06 April 2020

Chiropractic graduate Kylie Webber pictured during her recent visit to Mwanaza in Tanzania.

CQUniversity Master of Clinical Chiropractic graduate Kylie Webber may have had to cut short her volunteer experience in Africa, due to COVID-19, but she is using the current lockdown in Australia to learn Swahili, anticipating a return.

Kylie, who works as a chiropractic assistant, recently visited the Mwanaza region of Tanzania as a rehabilitation clinic volunteer, thanks to a schedule arranged through the Global Peace Network (GPN).

During her eight-day visit, she helped treat pregnant women with lower back pain, cases of osteoarthritis and children with cerebral palsy. Many of the patients had underlying metabolic conditions and nutritional  deficiencies.

Kylie's time was spent at GPN's local partner organisations - Magu District Hospital and Kanyama Dispensary. She also visited the Village Of Hope Orphanage and Mabatini Catholic Church.

"The Catholic Church was a place where mothers had a safe space to take their babies with special needs, mainly cerebral palsy, to learn strengthening and stretching exercises they could do at home to help with the baby's development," Kylie says.

"The healthcare professionals in Tanzania looked just as busy and compassionate and dedicated as most healthcare professionals are and were doing their best with limited resources.

"The conditions were not as modern, spacious or as favourable for optimal healing as you might find here in Australia but I was impressed by the way the staff managed and worked under the conditions ... it was a very touching experience.

"The learning experience was unfortunately short but invaluable. Dr Ryan Takagai and Sara Cole who is a nutritionist had a very positive impact. Their dedication to long-lasting change was inspirational.

"The introduction process to officials and the formalities included asking how are you, how is your work, how is your family and, whilst a little intimidating at first, this is a very respectful cultural way of building rapport.

"The people that I met were all very proud of their tribal heritage, friendly and fun, and liked to laugh, especially when it came to me trying Swahili."

Kylie says it was a joint decision between herself and GPN to cut short the volunteer experience, due to the growing risk of COVID-19 and related social distancing measures.

"GPN has an amazing three-year initiative in place and they have taken on board the concerns of partners and prospective partners, both positive and negative, about the impacts that volunteers can have in a developing country. I think if anyone is contemplating volunteering is to stop contemplating and just do it.

"Post COVID-19, I am looking forward to putting my skills to good use, using the lockdown time to learn Swahili and increase my knowledge in areas pertinent to conditions that are prevalent in Africa, anticipating a return!"