Thoughts from Tanzania

Six medical students from the Surgeon Noonan Society are currently completing a four week work experience at the OLA-run health centres in Bugisi and Mwamapalala in Tanzania.


Srs. Monica and Rita in Mwamapalala with Surgeon Noonan volunteers Ruth, Barry, Oisín, Eve, Jane and David. The Sisters presented the volunteers with shawls as a going away present ahead of their departure from Mwamapalala tomorrow, July 1st.

Below, four of the volunteers share some thoughts on their Tanzania experiences thus far:


Ruth Kelleher from County Waterford:

 2. RK2.JPG

Ruth pictured with Barry during an outreach clinic in Bugisi.


After almost 24 hours of travelling we were delighted to be met with a really warm welcome at Mwanza by Sr Kate Costigan and Sr Cassie Hurley. 

Our first week in Bugisi was jam-packed! Mornings and afternoons were spent working in the health centre, starting with ward rounds at 8am followed by various clinics where we would help to measure vitals, do examinations and use the opportunity to learn about diseases that are more prevalent here than at home, such as malaria, TB and HIV. We spent the evenings visiting families in local villages with Sr Kate. It was a real eye opener. We received such lovely welcomes from all the people we visited and I am so grateful we had the opportunity to spend time with some of the locals. It was fantastic to be immersed in the local culture and really set us up to hit the ground running in our second week here.

This week we have spent more time based in the health centre.  Seeing all the work the OLA Sisters are doing and where the money raised by Surgeon Noonan is being spent on healthcare in Bugisi is great. We have been helping out with an eye camp that is funded by Surgeon Noonan and have seen some of the building projects currently being carried out here that Surgeon Noonan money has also been used for. These are all things that make a huge difference to the healthcare for locals that they would not otherwise receive or be able to afford in bigger centres.


Eve Mallon from County Down:

5 EM5.jpg

Eve Mallon (centre) with Jane Burns (left) during their medical elective placement.


We are having an amazing time altogether here.  The people here are extremely welcoming. Sr Emmanuella, all the Sisters and staff have made us more than welcome. The OLA Sisters have been a privilege to meet. They have welcomed us and made us feel like part of the Bugisi community here. They have gone above and beyond and have also taught us a lot. We will never be able thank them enough. The work and care they provide is truly the work of God. They have such compassion and drive to provide medical care and social care. 

Sr. Kate Costigan is truly a remarkable person. I have never met anyone like her. We visited people with leprosy, families that the OLA sisters help here and brought a wheel chair to someone who needed it in the community. We were shown fully where exactly all the money we raised goes. How exactly and what exactly it is spent on, which was amazing to see how we could actually help. We take so much for granted at home.


Oisin O’Sullivan from Cork:

4. RK3.JPG

Oisin O'Sullivan during an outreach clinic in Bugisi.

Everyone is always willing to lend a hand and seems happy to teach us. There are a number of buildings going up in Bugisi including a new ward and a theatre. There's too much that the Sisters have done already for me to mention. They have taken us in in a foreign country and immediately made us feel at home. This was wonderful and really helped us to adjust! 


David O’Connell from Cork:

1. 3 lads lep.jpg

David (second from left) along with fellow volunteers Oisin and Barry pictured at the home of Rosie, a lady affected by leprosy, her grandson Charles and dog 'Jimmy'. Charles got sponsored for an electricians course by the OLA Sisters.

I wouldn't be able to write down everything we've done, simply because we've seen so much, even in the first week. To summarise, everyday consisted of going to placement for the morning and afternoon, followed by Sr Kate bringing us out on one of her famous 'Costigan Safaris' in the evenings, where we'd go out into the community to see families living in poverty, or people living with leprosy for example as we did one evening, and also having an opportunity to see the way in which the OLAs supports these people.

The road from Mwanza to Bugisi is actually quite good, but we did have to take one or two dirt roads, which really tested the jeep's suspension. The landscape is very cool, lots of large rocks sat on top of one another with many cows and goats along the roads. The sun rises at maybe 6 or 6.30am. It gets dark roughly around 7pm. The sun sets very quickly over here, it could go from light to dark in 20 or 30 minutes.

Bugisi is in the middle of some big developments, they're working on a new ward and theatre at the moment. The national school here is also have a new hall built at the moment.

The OLA health facility here in Bugisi currently has a female/postnatal ward, a male ward, a labour ward, I think three consultation rooms for Outpatients and three consultation rooms that they use for their HIV Clinic. From Monday to Wednesday they run the HIV Clinic. Tuesdays is a child welfare clinic where vaccinations and check ups are done for mothers and babies. Antenatal clinics take place on Thursday. On Fridays they go out into the community to do HIV testing or other child welfare clinics. At the moment in Bugisi, we're taking part in the Eye Camp which is entirely sponsored by Surgeon Noonan.

I remember at the information evening given by those who had done Surgeon Noonan the year previous to us, someone said 'When I got there, I really wished I badgered people for that extra 10 cent when I was doing bucket collections because the money is needed so much out there'. And you know what, they were absolutely spot on. Every single penny makes a difference and goes to good use.

I had expected people to be friendly here, but actually they are even more welcoming that I had anticipated. Whenever we were brought to visit some local families by Sister Kate, no matter how many of us came along and no matter how little the homeowner had, they always offered everyone a seat. Even if you ended up sitting on a piece of wood or an upside down bucket, everyone is given somewhere to sit, it's a nice custom I think. 

My biggest learning to date from my experience in Tanzania? I've been shown a lot here about the importance of helping others, especially those less fortunate and the impact it can have, I hope it's something I take home with me.

I don't know if I could really put into words how impressed I am with the work of the OLAs and how important the work they do here is. Building houses, supporting families, medical care, giving people solar panels so they can have lights in their homes and supporting the education of children. I know there are many organisations out there that do a lot of good work, but I've never experienced anything like this first hand, you'd really have to be here to understand how much they do for people. 

9 EM7.jpg

Sr Kate Costigan with children in Bugisi.


6 EM3.jpg

Outreach Clinic in Bugisi.


3. group pic bugisi vols, srs and patients.jpg

Surgeon Noonan Volunteers with Srs Emmanuella and Yvette with staff of the OLA Clinic in Bugisi.




  • Click here for more on volunteering with OLA
  • Click here for a related article titled 'Mission Connections'