Business Inspiration

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Around the time I finally decided that I was going to set up my own international healthcare electives organisation was when I was working for a company which arranges volunteering placements overseas in far flung developing destinations around the world. I think that one of the contributing factors to this momentous decision was that – despite only being in my mid-20s at the time, it was on this trip that I remembered feeling old for the very first time.

The reason for this was that I had been sent out to Tanzania to spend the summer looking after what seemed like wave upon wave of spoilt “young adults”, who were streaming out of their home countries of the UK, Ireland and the USA, seemingly with the sole objective of thoroughly ruining my experience of this wonderful country with their ridiculous hairstyles, inappropriate clothing and incessant questions. And it was one afternoon as I sat despairing in the middle of Dar-es-Salaam’s main square, with a swarm of Hetties, Poppies and Tarquins buzzing around my head that I came to the conclusion – I just couldn’t do this any longer.

The very next day, Kate arrived. I say that like this story is about to take a romantic twist. I wish it was, because she was incredibly beautiful. But, of course, this immediately meant that she was way out of my league, so I think the best you are going to be able to hope for is a staring-at-from-afar twist. No, the reason that Kate has appeared in this story is because she was on a physiotherapy placement.

I hadn’t realised that my organisation offered physiotherapy placements. In fact I think it’s fair to say that they probably hadn’t before Kate phoned up to ask them if they did, and certainly it was no surprise to me that I hadn’t been informed of the decision, particularly given that it was me who was responsible for organising these placements – I guess my bosses thought that keeping me in the loop would only serve to de-motivate me. So instead I was to spend the next day in a frantic panic trying to set something up for her.

Kate had come out to Tanzania with her friend Emma, who had chosen to do a Nursing placement with us, on the strength of this meaning that she could spend her summer with her best friend from home. Once I had managed to find an appropriate hospital for the two of them I was never short of an excuse to drop in on the two of them to “see how they were getting along”.

And I rapidly became incredibly impressed with the work that they were doing here. Although just a few years older than the gap year crowd, those additional years of experience and the skills they had picked up on their respective courses lent them an assured air which meant they were able to fit easily into the daily life of the hospital and were actually able to help to ease the workload of the overstretched staff. A seed was planted in my mind which rapidly began to grow...

A week later, Jon and Natalie joined us in Tanzania. They were boyfriend and girlfriend who had come out on their medical electives. I decided I would place them across two different healthcare providers – a large teaching hospital and a private clinic – in order to give them a broader experience of medicine placements in Tanzania, which would hopefully be further complemented by the fact they were going to be spending a further four weeks on a medical placement in Sri Lanka, before going home.

All these placements could have been a complete disaster if the students who went out on them weren’t absolutely brilliant, or if it wasn’t for the fact that I was so fed up with the rest of my job that I was happy to dedicate a great deal of my time towards making these placements work. But six years later and I run an organisation which solely organises electives for students from around the world.

Guest post by Omar:
Omar has spent a long time in the tourism industry before he set up his own company who organise elective placements in the developing countries.

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