Cholera is a dangerous disease that causes diarrhoea and vomiting.If left untreated, it can lead to death. It is an infection that spreads when a person comes into contact with food or water containing the faeces or vomit of another person who has been infected with cholera. It is most common in slums and refugee areas, but can become an issue after natural disasters or emergency situations. This is because there is limited access to sanitation and clean water. A cholera vaccine is imperative when travelling to affected countries when volunteering to help prevent the spread of cholera, and bellow are some of the ways that you can contribute to preventing the spread of cholera.

Health volunteers

A health volunteer is someone who is trained in how to deal with someone who has contracted cholera, such as providing a physical examination and issuing the cholera oral vaccine to those who are too weak to do so themselves. As a health volunteer, you will be the first point of contact for people suffering from cholera or acute watery diarrhoea. You do not have to be medically skilled for this type of volunteering as you will receive in-depth training before you are deployed in the affected country. You will also learn how to check for dehydration by pulling the skin and checking the pallor of patients, and you will be tasked with the gathering of important data about the patients, such as the frequency of their stool and categorising patients according to severity. It can be a daunting task, but becoming a health volunteer is highly rewarding.

Educational volunteers

Being an educational volunteer means that you will be out in the communities, helping doctors to educate the people on what cholera is, how it is contracted and how the oral cholera vaccine works and can help them. It is a position that is ideal for someone who enjoys working with people and can handle the stresses of field work. You will be taught everything there is to know about cholera, such as how it is found mostly in overcrowded areas with little sanitation, as well as how to prevent it. You will also be tasked with educating the community about the best practices in cholera prevention, like washing their hands after using the ablutions, and ensuring that all fresh vegetables and fruits are washed thoroughly with clean water before consumption.

Office volunteers

Any organisation that offers humanitarian work needs a well-run, smooth-operating office. More often than not, the doctors, nurses and other health personnel are unable to perform administrative tasks as well as medical tasks, meaning that office volunteers are always needed. Working in the office of an organisation dealing with an outbreak of cholera can be stressful, you will have to be able to think on your feet and deal with numerous requests at the same time. You might be tasked with setting up the schedules of the medical staff of the organisation or you could be responsible for assigning the cholera vaccines to different communities. It might not sound as glamorous as working in the field, but the administration is often the backbone of any well-run organisation.

Working in the field

If you want to work in the field, getting close to the action and providing valuable services, you will need to be a strong, fit and healthy. You will also have to be available for at least six to twelve months and have a valid passport if you are travelling to another country. Often field volunteers work and live together as a team, which means that you need to able to work well with others. Cholera can be a devastating disease and you will need the support of your teammates if you have seen something in the field that upsets you. Foreign language skills and cultural sensitivity are vital to field workers. Often cholera outbreaks happen in developing countries where there is little to no English  spoken, so you will need to quickly be able to pick up a foreign language or should know at least one before you leave.

Final thoughts

Volunteering to help prevent the spread of cholera is a noble cause, but not one to be entered into lightly. You could come into contact with immense human suffering, which can take a toll on young students. However, it is highly rewarding to know that you are making a difference in the world. Health volunteers and field volunteers will need to take the cholera vaccine before travelling, and possibly during their stay in the affected country. If you are going to be an educational volunteer, be sure to research the country first to learn about their culture and traditions so you do not offend or insult the people you are trying to educate.

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