We caught up with podiatrist, David Karamanis who travelled from his role in Sydney to immerse himself in Bolivia’s culture and communities; volunteering his skills to make a difference. Here’s why David recommends this experience to as many podiatrists as possible.
I had a great life in Australia, with family and friends. I worked at Sydney City Podiatry which I enjoyed and had access to great learning opportunities. It wasn’t until I had a patient with a severe foot deformity from a traumatic accident that I realised just how much more satisfying it was for me to treat vulnerable individuals.
I am currently in La Paz Bolivia, about to start three weeks of podiatry volunteer work in small communities surrounding Santa Cruz, like the tropical regions of Chiquitos. I will be working alongside a team of volunteers, which includes a doctor and a dentist. This trip was organised through MedFund.
It was hard initially to find a suitable volunteer opportunity here in Bolivia until I contacted MedFund and I shared a little about my podiatry skills and experience. Soon after, a volunteer trip to a rural town called Cheffe was confirmed, with the plan to volunteer there for one week.
While waiting to leave, I visited a local podiatry clinic where I spent two days observing how the podiatrists treated their patients and the techniques used. I was also able to get advice on where to buy a basic podiatry kit, but it was hard to find.
Working in Cheffe was satisfying. I had complaints of ingrown nails, fungal infections, a lot of interdigital macerations, and a severe infection that traveled from a previous ankle laceration.
It was great working with the doctor as I could get much-needed medications within moments, and she helped communicate my Google-translated ideas to the patient. It was certainly different to my usual podiatry experiences – in that I was able to wear whatever I wanted, I did not have to write patient notes, and the patients were so happy and appreciative of my time and efforts.
My favourite part of that week was spent travelling by ambulance to other rural communities; and meeting and treating different people there on the ground. At the end of my week in Cheffe, I had made a lot of new friends, and I was invited to the community’s lunch event and awarded a certificate from the community leader.
(Working in the clinic and outside in surrounding communities)
Now I’m currently back in La Paz, and I have been working with kids on the street to help organise an event (which involved making 120 pizzas!). This event was a great opportunity for these kids to access medical services, such as what I could bring as a podiatrist, as well as a doctor and some psychologists. We are currently working on establishing a similar program at the local university to provide this kind of medical service to university students.
(Student psychologist talking with working kids, and kids finished their art activity)
(Doctor talking with young mother, and some of the volunteers for the event)
(My Bolivian mother, and hiking with the Bolivian locals)
I always had a deep desire to live overseas in an adventurous way, and I always wanted to travel with a purpose. I can say today that I am closer to that purpose than I have ever been, as I now have a direction without a plan. I am leaving the door open for future opportunities whatever they may be, and I have people approaching me with their ideas, which is exciting.
I value my podiatry skills and its usefulness in helping people, and I am an average person like you who is just having a go in life. Maybe it’s something you might consider doing at some stage too?