It was anything but comfortable, but Chinese doctor Zhang Cong said his yearlong stay as a volunteer in the Seychelles was a happy one.
"The living and working conditions, especially the medical facilities, were not good," the 26-year-old said after returning home last week.
"But I felt very happy when I was spending time with the patients.
"I have become a friend to them."
The doctor from Guangzhou was one of 10 volunteers dispatched last year to the Seychelles, an island state located in the southwest Indian Ocean, by the Guangzhou Youth Volunteers Association.
The archipelago has the smallest population of any sovereign state in Africa.
"The locals became very interested in traditional Chinese medical practices. We felt we had really helped make a difference to promote traditional Chinese culture there," Zhang said.
"People there now know what Chinese acupuncture and massage are. I think it is very helpful in strengthening understanding between the two countries," he said.
Over the past year, as well as conducting 600 medical procedures and treating more than 13,700 patients, the team of 10 volunteers taught music and tourism students.
At the China-Africa summit in Beijing in 2006, China promised to dispatch about 300 volunteers to African countries over three years.
It will also help train 15,000 African professionals and send 100 senior agricultural experts to the continent.
Following the completion of the one-year stint by the first group of medical staff and teachers, the Guangzhou Youth Volunteers Association, recently launched a campaign to recruit 12 new people to work in hospitals and schools, and to train athletes in the Seychelles.
Xie Tianwen, secretary of the association said this year's group includes seven doctors and nurses, two music teachers, a Chinese language teacher and table tennis and gymnastics coaches.
They will leave for the island after the Chinese New Year, he said.
"As China pledged to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Africa at the China-Africa summit, we will select young volunteers with strong professional skills to work there," Xie said.
Source: China Daily