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Alumni Stories: Emma Fuller in Bangladesh

Dec 16, 2019

Emma Fuller

Photo: Emma Fuller. Photo taken by Dr. Neal Stretch 

Emma Fuller graduated from McMaster’s Accelerated Nursing Program in April 2018 and started work in the emergency department and medicine floor of a small rural hospital in her home community. In the fall of 2019, she had the opportunity to join a medical team travelling to Bangladesh for two weeks. Here is her account of her experience.

Reflections on international aid work in Bangladesh

By Emma Fuller, BScN ‘18

I was drawn to the profession of nursing as I believe it to be an art of compassion. I have a keen interest in participating in global healthcare work. It is important not only to give back to your home community and country, but also to re-connect with fellow humans around the planet and find a way to be of service to others.

In October 2019, I travelled to Bangladesh with a team of eight Canadians who had a variety of skills, including medical and non-medical. The trip was arranged by a non-profit organization called International Needs Canada, which works in countries around the world to provide education, health care, food, and clean water. I was drawn to their commitment to sustainability and partnership with local hosts. Development and aid work cannot be successful if it does not empower local people.

Along with participants from New Zealand and Australia, as well as our local Bangladeshi hosts, our team travelled to rural communities within Bangladesh and completed five medical clinics over two weeks. Our work allowed us to assess the unique healthcare challenges in these areas with the hopes of bringing more sustainable, and individualized, projects to these communities in the future.

The Bangladeshi people face immense challenges in terms of their large population, pollution and garbage, poverty levels, and rising sea levels. They will continue to face some of the most devastating effects of the climate crisis in the years to come. The rural areas are under-serviced in health care and have limited access to basic amenities. Despite this, the Bangladesh people, with their wide range of cultures and traditions, are proud of their heritage and are hard-working, generous, and kind.

 sign for clinic

Photo above: Sign at Naogaon Medical Camp. Photo by Emma Fuller.

The days were often long and hot, with large crowds and many needs, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I feel grateful for the opportunity to get out of my own comfort zone and privilege and see how other human beings are living and struggling to survive each and every day. It helped me put my own life in perspective and motivates me to keep working for change, both as a nurse and human being. During the trip, I began to realize that our work in Bangladesh was about more than the bottles of vitamins we handed out or the blood pressures that we took. It was about sharing moments of hope, connection and shared humanity. It was about saying “I see you”. 

I still have questions to puzzle out about international aid work, but I will continue to be an active participant and passionate advocate for organizations, such as International Needs Canada, which are committed to sustainable development and the improvement of human lives around the world. As our trip leader said to us one evening as we struggled to understand our role, “The other option is doing nothing.” So, I chose to do something.  And that is all we can ever do.  

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