As a teenager in the 60s, Nancy Edwards decided she wanted to work abroad in health care. A decade later, she joined CUSO and set off to become a community health nurse tutor in Sierra Leone.
“It was a very exciting time to be there,” says Edwards. “The country was implementing its primary health care system, and we were out providing the first round of immunization.”
Edwards recounts fondly how she and her team had to find ways to explain to mothers and caretakers what they were doing. “The villagers believed measles were the result of witches spraying boiling water on children at night. So we told them that the vaccines were there to fight off the witches.”
“We saw very rapid improvements in health with this program.”
For Nancy Edwards, the work in Sierra Leone was only the beginning of a long and distinguished career in global health and education.
“My placement in Sierra Leone completely cemented my commitment to global health,” she says.
A distinguished professor at the University of Ottawa, Edwards has received numerous awards and three honorary doctorates.
“Volunteering abroad is a life changing experience. You will learn more than you are able to give. Expect to be humbled and expect to be wowed by strength and resilience of the people you meet.”