The GPSA Thailand Experience 8 January 2020
In November 2019, four of our high school students were selected to participate in the GPSA (Global Public Service Academy) Program in Thailand.
The students travelled to a village called Mae Sot close to the borders with Myanmar where many refugees who fled from suppression are living. Students volunteered for clinical service in a small outpatient clinic for adults and children where they facilitated several medical screenings such as measuring infant height and weight, measuring blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose. They were also involved in cultural training that involved language classes and received lessons and workshops on the refugee crisis. Students not only learn more about healthcare, but they also got to understand the Burmese/Thai culture and have a deeper understanding of the impact of the refugee crisis through visit boarding schools for children of refugee families. Through the boarding school visit, they also got the opportunity to connect to students their own age and make new friends.
Continue below for reflections by our students.
When going on the trip, I saw all the conditions all these children and their parents were in, running from a corrupt government that is destroying their homes and killing their people. On this trip we were able to help these refugees that have almost never gotten medical attention. When we talked with them and just gave them a small comforting smile and tell them that their vital signs were normal, their faces lit up and they looked very happy. The look of happiness they gave us made me happy too, making me feel I had done something good. With these experiences I finally chose what I wanted to be in the future.
Another life changing experience was learning all these new medical terms. I realised that I loved learning about all this new information that I did not know of before, how to check vital signs, deal with young patients, adult patients and even how to write out medical forms to send patients to get tested further in the lab. All of this made me even more interested in the medical field as it might do with some of you. Before I was not too sure, thinking about many different choices. But now I am on the path to becoming a doctor.
I was selected as part of a team to go on a Medical Service trip to Thailand. The aim of this trip was to expose ourselves to an intense health care experience by providing basic medical aid, and by the end of the trip it had become a life-changing experience.
It was a 9 day trip that involved us in cultural and medical experiences. In preparation for it, we had in-school practical sessions, were we learned how to take respiration rate, pulse rate, blood pressure and blood glucose test, and we learned how to interact with patients. We first arrived in Bangkok and from there we went to Mae Sot, which is a village with vulnerable communities. The cultural experiences were: visit to Budhsit temples, Thai massage, visit to refugee’s boarding house and see a live Thai fight competition. Some of the medical procedures we conducted included doing a vital signs check up in Mae Tao clinic, providing health care presentations to vulnerable communities and after that providing basic medical aid to them.
This trip helped me open my eyes to the world, looking at the communities living there and hearing their stories, I think it helped me become a more mindful Global Leader. When I was working in the clinic, I had to look for innovative ways to communicate effectively with non-english speakers, it was a good learning experience. Now I am applying everything I learned into my everyday life. I learned a lot in the trip, and I feel I have taken one more step as a person in the road of my life.
Going into this trip, I was hoping to determine whether or not I was suited for clinical work. Instead, I discovered my interest in global health and service in a broader sense, and it was a learning experience more than anything. First, working in an environment that pushed me to solve practical problems with little help was refreshing, and the progress I made was very much worth the struggle. It taught me how to communicate with patients that spoke each in their own languages and came from very different backgrounds. In fact, I learned how much trust a simple smile and introduction could bring. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the culture for this reason, and it drew me closer to the community. Moving forward, I hope that I can give back to this community moving forward and pursue my newfound interest as well.
Through my experience in GPSA, I have acquired great skills for cultural adaptation through clinical work. I was reminded that these small efforts are extremely important to achieve Global Health for everybody. In the span of nine days, I have gained motivation for future that I want to create, because of how much impact we were able to cause. I have learnt that it would be important to endorse the idea that they deserve equality moving forward, if I was to do this longer. So, I could inspire people globally, like the doctors there did – Butterfly effect.