By Paulette Thabault, director, School of Nursing
Seven Norwich University nursing students and their faculty leader, Prof. Jessica Wood, spent the months of April and May preparing for a service learning trip to Managua, Nicaragua, to join an eight-day medical mission brigade in the rural San Ramon region.
The extensive efforts by the Norwich travelers enabled them to join the 40-member “Share the Light team” from Colorado to provide healthcare to impoverished villages. The mission was organized and sponsored by Corner of Love, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping the people of Nicaragua. It cites these goals: “Through clean water, health care and community programs, Corner of Love focuses on teaching Nicaraguans how to take measurable steps out of poverty. Our in-country programs are conducted in a variety of venues, such as rural churches and schools, our office in the town of San Ramón, and at our ministry site, Plaza de Bondad, near La Lima River. At these facilities and others, we provide services and goods to any deserving patient or person in need regardless of their political view or religious belief.”
The Norwich contingent applied its organization, fund- and awareness-raising skills to the mission of bringing healthcare education and services to the people of Nicaragua. Wood explained that every student worked to raise funds to cover room and board while in Nicaragua, and for the purchase of needed medical supplies. Each traveler also collected donations to support their work in Nicaragua.
Joining the team meant committing to raising $1,250 and collecting enough donated items to fill two duffel bags with 50 pounds of supplies for each traveler to carry to Nicaragua. Each nursing student also completed one academic credit with course objectives focused on developing cultural competence as they learn about community health nursing. Students prepared to see firsthand the impact of social determinants of health, such as access to clean water, food and healthcare. While in Nicaragua, Norwich students planned to set up oral health stations, teaching Nicaraguan children and their families about the importance of dental care and distributing toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Among other outreach activities, the Norwich team raised $1,100 by organizing a 5K fun run that was held on May 7 in the town of Richmond, Vt. Shannin Miksek and Wren Arvanetaki, both rising seniors, were key organizers for the run. They received incredible community support including sponsorships from Hatchet Tap and Table; Sweet Simone’s; Scout and Company and The Blue Stone. Spectators and supporters cheered on the 48 runners as they completed the fun run. The nursing students also wrote letters, held bake sales and asked for support from their friends, relatives, churches and local communities. Students also received support from Norwich University through Politi Research Travel Grants.
On June 2, the nursing school travelers gathered at the campus for the traditional “packing party.” While snacking on pizza, all of the collected donations were distributed so that the bags each weighed about 50 pounds. Donations included light clothing for children and adults, shoes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, medical/first aid supplies, over-the-counter medicine products such as Tylenol and vitamins, as well as soap, shampoo and other personal care items and baby care products and small toys.
“Preparing for the mission is as important as being there” said faculty leader Wood.