"For me, the most important thing is to do as much good as possible for each other," says Lana Ritlop, a physiotherapy student at Alma Mater Europaea. She established the project Physiotherapists Without Borders to selflessly offers help to people in developing countries. Her work was also reported in the renowned German media Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Her desire to help people in need arose when she was spending the summer holidays in Egypt and Tunisia. "I was horrified by the disastrous living conditions in this area, while tourists only come here for the sights of ancient history and tourist comfort. The health of people in developing countries plays a significant role. Physical health and maintenance of body functions is crucial as people in these countries do all work manually, without machines. Physiotherapy is of the key importance here," emphasizes Lana Ritlop. She decided to study physiotherapy at Alma Mater after graduating from the Secondary School of Health in Murska Sobota.
Her decisive steps toward volunteering began in the first semester of her studies. In 2018, she joined the monthly expedition Travel as a volunteer to Gambia. "Even though I only had a basic knowledge of first aid and physiotherapy, I quickly realized that I could help in the local hospitals. Such expeditions are not only about expertise but also about empathy, kindness, respectful attitude towards fellow human beings and a genuine feeling of support for people in need," he recalls of his beginnings.
Upon returning home, she created her project Physiotherapists without Borders, which at the same time became a project of the Student Association of Alma Mater Europaea during its four years of operation. "I have put a lot of effort and energy into this project. Sometimes I would rather give up, but I did not, and today I am proud of myself. In 2020, I organized and led an expedition of five Alma Mater students to Gambia, where we helped with work in a hospital," says Lana, adding that two additional groups went on the expedition in the following year. "The first group went to Gambia for three weeks and the second to Ghana for three weeks. There were a total of 14 students in Africa," Lana explains, adding that as part of the project, approximately 100 other students performed voluntary work in Slovenian rehabilitation facilities.
Eva Menhart, a physiotherapy student at Alma Mater, has been a part of the volunteer team since the last year. "The feeling of being able to help other people with your knowledge and willingness is indescribable. We focus on practical knowledge and physical skills at work, not expensive equipment. Time stops in Gambia and Ghana; almost no one has a watch. But the people are rich in respect, reciprocity, and gratitude," Eva describes, adding that the patients there would typically have to pay for such treatments. In addition, Lana Ritlop managed to provide the hospitals with technical equipment and financial resources with the assistance of the project, thus enabling patients to receive free services.
"We are sincerely grateful for every euro –we received 2,500.00 EUR last year with the assistance of Generali insurance. We were very happy as it was the biggest donation we have ever received," says Lana. With a total amount of 4,000.00 EUR, the students bought an ultrasound machine and two Doppler ultrasound machines in Ghana, in order to measure the speed of blood flow and oxygen cylinders for ventilation.
"I remember a desperate mother whose child had great difficulty breathing. We have provided the payment for the examination and appropriate treatment. I will never forget the smile on the mother's face, who came a few days later to thank me because the baby's health significantly approved," Lana says, adding that the treatment cost only 50.00 EUR. "In Slovenia, we are not enough aware that a young life can be saved with an amount equal to the value of branded T-shirt," commented Eva Menart. Lana Ritlop also mentions that she participated at birth of twins with the help of a C-section and confronted a brutal circumcision of girls, which is still present.
Lana Ritlop's work is a great motivation for other students and society in general, not only in terms of work experience but an extraordinary degree of self-sacrifice, heartiness, and willingness to help others, despite unknown and rugged working conditions. Expeditions also represent a financial cost. "Approximately 1,800.00 EUR per person, of which EUR 800.00 is reimbursed with a scholarship." The Slovene Institute »Voluntariat« also recognized Lana's success and invited her to the Humus in Jam project, where she will help people suffering from occupation and war conflict.
Lana's goals are forward-looking, but the ambitious student is also in need of support. "I want to develop a structure for our physiotherapy work that will serve as a model for helping people without large material resources," is clear and grateful to Alma Mater Europea, which provides the entire team with great help with logistics, medical equipment, and networking. "We greatly appreciate Lana Ritlop's initiative and support her commitment from the very beginning. She inspires young generations for humanitarian projects, to help the disadvantaged here in Slovenia and all over the world," says the president of Alma Mater Europaea, Professor Ludvik Toplak. Her work is also supported by the coordinator of the study process, Professor Sebastjan Kristovič: " Heartiness and enthusiasm of individuals change the world. We are happy to have such students."
In the end, the most important thing for me is to do as much good as possible for each other, to be able to say the words »thank you« and »I am sorry« sincerely, and to spend as much time as possible with those who love us. Material things and others' opinions of us do not count in life," concludes Lana Ritlop. In the following days, three additional physiotherapy students at Alma Mater Europaea embark on a new expedition with her. This time to India.