Third-year Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) student Eloise Wilson's time volunteering in Burundi has affirmed her decision to pursue a career in the health sector and ignited a passion for making a difference.
Eloise, who received a Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship to attend AUT after being inspired by an AUT presentation at her high school, was drawn to physiotherapy as a career choice.
"I've always had a passion for the health sector, and was really interested in a career that would let me help patients through an entire journey. The ongoing support that physiotherapy and rehabilitation offers patients really appealed to me," Eloise explained.
She first learned of Burundi during a work experience trip in the US, when family friends who worked in the medical sector told her about their time in the tiny Central-East African nation.
"I had never heard of Burundi before, but I was captivated with the idea of helping however I could," Eloise elaborated. "So I did some research and partnered with Youth With A Mission - a youth volunteering organisation - who really helped me get started."
Eloise spent three weeks in Burundi - primarily in capital city Bujumbura - doing volunteer work at various hospitals and medical centres in different villages across the region. She was particularly proud of her time at a school for children with Cerebral Palsy, and how she was able to teach the staff about physiotherapy techniques to help the students.
"The centres and hospitals have such limited resources, and it was incredible to be able to help in some way," Eloise reflects. "Everyone I met in Burundi had this undeniable joy about them and were so welcoming and grateful for the support. It was very humbling."
Eloise's time in Burundi has sparked a desire to ramp up her volunteer efforts in the country.
"There is no way that you can have an experience like this and not be compelled to keep helping however you can," Eloise says. "I want to set up something long-term to keep serving these communities, and am keen to bring more people onboard."
"In New Zealand, we have this incredible opportunity to educate ourselves. For me, the next step is to think about how we can use this privilege that we have to help others - and this trip to Burundi has really fueled that fire within me."