from the Strathspey Herald
A STUDENT nurse from Aviemore and her three friends will be heading to Ghana this summer to hone their skills and help tackle diseases including malaria and Aids which are blighting the country.
Fiona Reid, a former Grantown Grammar School pupil, will be working as a volunteer in a hospital and orphanage in a rural part of the west coast African country for three months from mid-June with the charity Projects Abroad.
Over one-fifth of children under the age of five die in Ghana because of malaria alone - a tropical disease caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium which is spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito.
Fiona will be joined on the trip by the three-housemates she shares with in central Edinburgh - Sarah Russell (21) from Harrogate, 23-year-old Louise Harrington from St Andrews; and Catherine Scott, also 21 and from Aberdeen.
The quartet are in their second-year of study at the capital's Napier University and have opted for the overseas trip as part of their course to gain practical nursing experience.
Fiona, who is the daughter of Nigel and Allyson Reid, owners of the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore, is no stranger to globe trotting having taking a gap year out travelling in Australia in 2004 and worked a three-month stint as a tennis coach during the summer of 2006 in the north-east American state of Maine.
But she admits that working as a nurse in a country which has a rudimentary health care service will be something completely different, and confesses to having a few butterflies.
"I am getting a little nervous as the trip gets closer but I am really looking forward to being able to help out, too," remarked the 23-year-old who specialises in paediatrics.
"Nearly 40 per cent of Ghana's population is living below the national poverty line. Children's access to sanitation is low and this leads to serious problems with sickness, diarrhoea and dehydration.
"The incidence of malaria is high and this disease alone kills 22 per cent of children under the age of five years. HIV/Aids, malnutrition, measles, pneumonia and septicaemia are all widespread."
Amongst the challenges facing the health service in Ghana are poor distribution, high costs, and the poor quality and irrational use of medicines, she said. "It all of creates an instability within health care and administration which is a problem that our society would not recognise.
"The health service in Ghana is acknowledged as being 50 years behind us here in the UK so it should be a very interesting experience," she said.
But it's not just a one-way process, Fiona added. "We will be learning from the community by improving our own vital nursing skills and developing ancillary skills such as communication, child development, family support and clinical knowledge."
Initially, Fiona had been due to work this summer as a volunteer nurse in the Kingdom of Nepal which has a much more highly developed system of healthcare - but Projects Abroad recommended Ghana as a challenge that she would find more rewarding.
Fiona needs to raise £2,500 in total in order to head to Ghana - and she is on her way having saved £1,000.
Anyone wanting more information on the trip or to make a donation can contact Fiona by emailing email@example.com or via the Aviemore pub.
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