Imagine you are an ophthalmologist in the middle of a surgery doing delicate work to save a patient’s vision, suddenly the power went out… The operating room is in total darkness and you don’t dare to move even a finger until someone comes with a flashlight…

Nobody would want to be in that doctor’s shoes. Well, maybe except for the patient on the operating table…

Unfortunately, power outrage happens more often than desired in the underdeveloped regions of the world. For example, Kolandoto hospital in the Shinyanga district of Tanzania suffered from incidents like this about twice a week, which is twice a week too often and greatly interrupted the activities in the operating rooms… 

Fortunately, now these incidents are part of history at the ophthalmology, general and maternity ORs thanks to a group of engineers and students from Ingenjörer Utan Gränser (Engineers without borders), Chalmers University, Sweden, sponsored by three Swedish NGOs: I Aid Africa (IAA), Architects without Borders (ASF) and Engineers without Borders (ISF).
Image result for engineer without borders sweden

 

I got the pleasure to talk to the 2 students, Martin and Simon who accomplished the Phase 2 field work on the solar powered UPS-system (Uninterruptible Power Supply) project for the Kolandoto hospital, after a month of initial preparatory work based at Chalmers University.

They arrived mid February of 2016 carrying expectations of the Swedish sponsors, their fellows EWB members, the local hospital community and most importantly their own drive to do something good.

This eagerness to get things rolling was however confronted by some initial challenges, most notably the local way of slow-paced work. They had to re-evaluate their Swedish efficiency and try to adapt to the “waiting game”: Waiting for the key keepers to open doors, waiting for delayed delivery of ordered electrical parts and planned installations, and waiting for other partners to show up at scheduled meetings…

Martin and Simon learned that the best way to deal with it is to calm down and go with the flow, which gave them the peace of mind to make the best of the situation. They joked about locals making fun of them for always walking really fast and learning to use body language effectively for communication. It was quite a time of personal growth of gained cultural understanding, courage to explore the unknown and confidence in their own capabilities to carry on a project even when facing disruptions.

With perseverance and a positive attitude, they accomplished the project in their eight weeks of stay. Three UPS systems were installed for three operating rooms, with all the parts made in Tanzania by contracted local companies. Now these ORs can be completely powered by solar on a sunny day, and the batteries have made sure that blackouts no longer occur. 

Cheers to making the world a better place one lighted operating room at a time.

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