During the planning for our project in Sri Lanka, we needed a doctor who was ready to join us and achieve the goals we had set. The project was to help Sea Sisters, an organisation which helps Sri Lankan women to emancipate themselves through surfing and swimming. Not only did we bring swimming equipment, we also wanted to offer activities related to swimming and lifesaving. Let us have a look back at this mission with Damien, sports doctor and Paddle-paddle volunteer.
Paddle-paddle needed a doctor, what pushed you to join us?
I am a sports doctor and have always wondered how this specialised skill set could help charity projects. When Mathieu called me, the project sounded great. The idea seemed to answer my question.
What was your role?
I was in charge of organising a lifesaving course for the volunteers of Sea Sisters at Weligama. We also organised a discussion time to exchange experiences between the different actors of the different associations.
How did you prepare?
It was not easy. We had to find the right way to communicate with the volunteers without truly knowing their experience and previous knowledge. Some of them had the equivalent of a first-aid course, others did not. There needs to be a clear and appropriate message which can be easily remembered. Aneesha wishes to offer the same courses for the surf school project in India. She helped us a lot, particularly with a personal story that she went through. This allows to add a touch of reality to the course. The other difficulty was to find the existing network of healthcare in Sri Lanka and to understand how it worked. In France, we call the 15 or the 112, over there, it is a bit different, even if recently they organised a call centre with a short number, allowing to send an ambulance if needed.
Are you happy with your intervention and role in this mission?
Yes. I really did not know what to expect, how it was going to go or be seen as. Cultural differences also exist in medicine and especially with the relationship to death. The volunteers of the association taking part in the first-aid course were from different nationalities. I will always remember the discussions we had after this workshop, in particular the fact that in Sri Lanka, resuscitation, cardiac massages, mouth-to-mouth practices are not spontaneous. The Sri Lankan culture and religion, primarily Buddhist, do not want that a dead person be reanimated or most importantly not even touched. It is seen as rude to perform resuscitation in public, and you could be stopped from doing so by members of the public.
Do medicine and solidarity have a future together?
Of course. There are no other way forwards. Whether it be the solidarity between the different jobs within the medical sector, the different specialities or, as with this mission, between cultures, this allows todays medicine to become tomorrows.
Other medical professionals probably want to go for it too, what do you want to tell them?
It is a fun adventure. This one in Sri Lanka allowed me to simultaneously work and enjoy myself, but that isn’t always the case. I would say that this mission, although quite short in terms of time spent there, allowed me to exchange with other cultures, to discover other ways of thinking and functioning, it takes you out of your comfort zone. That allows you to evolve, both in your professional career as much as in your personal life.