A former Miss Summerland has spent the past few months volunteering in the Punjab region of India as well as a rural area of Kenya.
Ani Ziebarth, who was Miss Summerland in 2007-2008 and graduated from Summerland Secondary School, took the recent semester off from nursing studies to travel and volunteer.
In the city of Pathankot in India she stayed at a school for special needs children operated by the brother of a family friend. Funded by church organizations and government, St. Francis Home has 80 children. Most are day students, but 25 are far from home so they live in a hostel through the week. She taught English to the older children, and tutored some in math.
“More than anything I was the human jungle gym.” She explained that teachers don’t have much time to play with the children, so she was glad to be able to help the youngsters stretch and exercise.
“I got to know them and to love them and the language barrier didn’t even matter in the end.”
Her stay in Northern India included sightseeing trips to Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetan exiles; the Taj Mahal; the city of New Delhi; the Red Fort; and other places of cultural, historical and religious significance. She hopes to return someday to spend a year traveling in India.
After nearly two months in India, she moved on to Kenya where she worked for about a month. There she had arranged her volunteer placement through the Maralink Eco-Volunteers.
“I chose to go into the rural medical system.” She went to work in a small hospital located about an hour away from Nairobi.
“They had me in three departments: pediatrics, general and maternity. It was a learning experience. You learn to make do with very little materials.”
For example, there were few supplies for dressing wounds. A wound might be covered with a piece of gauze, but there wasn’t the large selection of dressings available in Canadian healthcare settings.
Little pain medication was available.
“You come in with third degree burns and you get Tylenol,” she said.
“The people are so stoic.”
“Burns are very common there.” In Canadian hospitals she had seen few burns because they are usually treated at special burn centres.
In Kenya cooking is done over wood fires. “It is very easy for a toddler to pour hot tea on themselves or put a hand in the fire.”
She has a new appreciation the privacy afforded to patients in Canada. In the rural Kenyan hospital where she worked, “there is no such thing as a private ward. Beds are all in one common room.”
Ziebarth researched, arranged and financed the volunteer trip herself. She left Canada on Sept. 26 and returned Dec. 19 after a 40-hour flight. She spent Christmas in Summerland with her family, including parents Mark and Julia Ziebarth, brothers Jonathan and Thomas, and sister Caroline Rose.
She is returning to her fourth year nursing studies at the University of Northern BC in Prince George. The trip has made her want to travel more, and she would like to work overseas after graduation.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat. There’s so much world to see; I can’t see how anyone would not want to see the world.”
“I have never experienced such kindness. Wherever I went people went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. It’s a small world.”