If you are professionally trained in a relevant field, you may be able to use your skills to help the work of CCD. Although the primary aim of all volunteers is to support the CCD staff in caring for the children, professional training in skills such as physiotherapy, nursing and occupational therapy is an asset to CCD as there are far fewer qualified professionals in these fields in Thailand. Professional skills in working with special needs, language teaching, music and art are also highly sought after. We catch up with Edinburgh GP Lorna, the first ever doctor we have sent over to Thailand and find out what it was like working for CCD as a professional volunteer, and the challenges she faced.
What initially led you to want to volunteer for CCD, Lorna?
I have followed the work of CCD for about 5 years after being touched by a report about their work with the children. I had been considering taking a short career break after fully qualifying as a GP, so I looked into combining this with volunteering with CCD, applied and a few months later was in Thailand!
What hopes did you have as a volunteer who could bring not only energy and time, but also a professional skill too?
Since I was the first doctor to go out, it was an unknown for both myself and CCD as to how and if I would be able to use my medical skills. My primary aim was to serve CCD in whatever way I could, giving the children the love and care that they so desperately need, even if that meant that I wouldn’t use my professional skills much.
Did you find you were able to contribute using your professional skills?
Yes. Although it was a far cry from my daily work as a GP, I was able to adapt my skills to the situations I was faced with, assessing the children, advising on treatment where appropriate, and applying basic principles when helping with the general care of the children.
What were the challenges of volunteering out there having been trained as a professional under the UK system?
There were several challenges such as the language barrier, limited resources and working with people who had different ways of managing conditions, whether medical treatments or different therapies. Furthermore, as a UK doctor, I was not registered with the Thai Medical Council which did limit to some extent what I could do. However, it was an immensely rewarding time, being able to utilise my skills to help some very needy children, and even see some small yet significant changes in the lives of these young people.
Would you do it again?
Yes, definitely! I had an amazing experience and learnt a great deal that is impacting on my work back in the UK. It was a privilege to work with CCD and their dedicated staff and I hope to return one day.
What would your advice be to a professional, say a qualified physiotherapist, OT or nurse, who is considering volunteering for CCD?
I would encourage any professional considering volunteering to get in touch with For Life so that you can be put in contact with previous professional volunteers for more information about what your work might entail. Your skills, of whatever profession, can be of huge benefit to CCD and the children, and it is great to be able to share your expertise, but be cautious about going with your “western” hat on, expecting to work as you do back home. If you have a heart for helping the children and a willingness to serve, in whatever capacity, then you will not be disappointed!