Somaliland:World-wide aid group seeking volunteers


aaaTroppoDoc founder Dr Derek Allen and volunteer Diana Watson with Hilda (1), a child under their guardianship, in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

By Shawn McAvinue

Thu, 22 Oct 2015-An organisation founded by a Dunedin doctor to help save the lives of the poor is seeking volunteers.

The non-governmental organisation TroppoDoc was founded in 2002 to help Dr Derek Allen provide free medical care to those in need in the developing world.

”We try and find the poorest people in the world,” Dr Allen, a former Dunedin School of Medicine student, said.

The countries visited included Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, Vanuatu, Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Somaliland and the medical work included pulling teeth, dispensing medicine and performing operations.

The organisation had a pool of about about 30 volunteers and usually worked in a country for three months.

The volunteers treated about 100 people a day and they often queued overnight for treatment, Dr Allen said.

If the medical attention had not been available, many of the people would have died, he said.

Dunedin midwife Diana Watson said she had been a full-time TroppoDoc volunteer for the past two years.

The organisation needed more volunteers, she said.

”We are always looking for people, who are not necessarily medical but must be 100% enthusiastic in helping poor people.”

Many volunteers had no medical background but helped with tasks including dispensing medicine, bandaging sores, decorating schools, teaching people how to grow vegetables and installing systems to produce clean water.

Volunteers did not get paid but the villages usually provided free food and basic accommodation, Ms Watson said.

”We are usually sleeping on the ground and there is no toilets or showers, so you need to have a bucket shower. It’s not glamorous.”

Dr Allen said people volunteered to live in the ”harsh” conditions because the work was rewarding.

”What you get back is worth it. It’s amazingly rewarding helping poor people. I’ve been doing it 30 years and once you start you can’t stop.”

Dr Allen said some of the experiences were challenging, including the common practice in Somaliland of sewing a girl’s vagina closed after her first menstruation to protect her against being raped.

”It would be unsewn the night before her marriage. It’s amazing this still happens in our world.”

Dr Allen said in Somaliland it was common practice for people with mental health issues, including depression, schizophrenia and dementia, to be chained to a tree and ”fed like a dog” because there was no treatment available.

On a trip to Vanuatu, Dr Allen and Ms Watson began the shared guardianship of Hilda, a girl from a Vanuatu family, whose parents struggled to care for their seven children and asked for help, Ms Watson said.

”She travels with us. She has done 38 flights so far. She has been to Africa, South America, Indonesia, New Zealand three times,” Ms Watson said.

Dr Allen and Ms Watson would continue to care for Hilda until her education was complete and she would return to Vanuatu every year to visit her parents.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer could email Dr Allen at

Source: Otago Daily Times


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