Where did you go and what did you do?
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to help construct a community centre in Swaziland, a trades training facility in Sri Lanka and a livelihood centre in the Philippines. All three of these projects sustainably addressed issues important to local communities in each country.
Regardless of whether the groups I worked with were able to finish each project, I believe that we made positive progress in each community we worked in. Local communities will benefit from the final products of each of these projects, but they also benefit from the regular reminders that each DWC group brings: There is hope for their future, and there are people who want to work with them to generate sustainable solutions to their communities’ concerns. I learned this through interacting with members of the communities and spending time reflecting on my volunteer experiences.
What impact did volunteering with DWC have on your global outlook?
My work with DWC has completely transformed the way that I view my role in the world. After volunteering in developing nations, I feel a new sense of responsibility and empowerment to make international work a priority in my life. These experiences have expanded what I think of as my community from Canada to the world.
How did volunteering abroad affect your career goals?
I have always wanted to be a surgeon. However, I have not always known what kind of surgery I am interested in, or what kind of practice I will lead. The perspectives and experience that I gained volunteering with DWC, particularly as a team leader, built the foundations of my current educational and employment goals. Although none of the projects I was involved with were health related in the strictest definition, I began to appreciate the broad scope of international health and began to see how I could carry these experiences forward into a career in medicine.
As a medical student, I volunteered for the Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS) and worked on a research project to assess the capacity of BC Children’s Hospital to provide surgical care for pediatric patients from low to middle income countries overseas. I hope that this is just the beginning of a long and productive medical career with a focus on promoting global health.
Why should students go on an international volunteer trip?
Volunteering with DWC gave me an opportunity to develop my understanding of what life is like for other people across continental borders. These experiences changed fundamental aspects of my life philosophy and undoubtedly shaped my goals for the future. Furthermore, my role as a team leader offered me comprehensive leadership and project management skills that have empowered me in professional endeavours here in Canada. I would highly recommend volunteering with DWC to anyone, of any age and from any background.
Devon Rasmussen finished his residency in the medical program at Queen’s University and is a resident of obstetrics and gynecology in Winnipeg.