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Students Deliver Compassion and Care in Africa

Experience Builds Confidence in Nursing

A umass lowell student checking a kids healths in Africa.
Alex Lamont of Lowell checks a child’s heart in the village of Torkor.

By Karen Angelo

The Nursing Students Without Borders group adjusted to the grueling living conditions without complaint. They felt fortunate for a trickle of cold water. They looked forward to crackers for dinner. They dealt with no sewer systems.

They took the discomforts in stride because they knew that for them, the situation was temporary. But their hearts broke for the children and adults of Ghana, the ones they cared for during their 17-day mission trip.

“I find the whole experience teaches us all about our strengths and how to survive,” says Asst. Prof. Valerie King who led the group for the third year. “My first year I spoke about how the experience had to break me down a bit before it built me up. I suspect that this is a process that was experienced by the students as well.”

During winter break, the 10 senior nursing students ߝ Kelly Britton, Lorna Bratt, Alex Lamont, Melissa Bernier, Lauren Horgan, Jason Hebert, Laila Charmchi, Kim Cook, Erica Lavoie and Amanda Cincotta ߝ traveled 5,000 miles with King and nursing alum Maura Sullivan Norton to educate and provide care to adults and children in remote villages of Ghana, Africa.

The Compassionate Care of American Nurses

While the medical supplies, health clinics and visits to orphanages were all appreciated by the Ghanaian people, the students were shocked at what the people valued most.

“Shortly after we arrived, I asked one of our guides what previous groups of nursing students did that had the most impact,” said nursing student Jason Hebert of North Reading in the student blog.

“I was expecting that the former nursing students made big strides through teaching and donations, but my mouth fell open when he said it was our compassion.”

That compassion was revealed as the students taught mothers of young children in the remote village of Peki how to prevent malaria, an infectious disease that kills 20,000 children each year. The students delivered thermometers and insecticide treated bed nets, tools that will help parents detect and prevent the disease.

“All of these experiences helped the students appreciate the power of teaching to promote good health and deepened their confidence in assessing patients’ health in any situation,” says King.

The Greatest Legacy

The students taught 80 children about proper nutrition, 500 adults about hypertension and 40 mothers about how to prevent malaria. They delivered medical supplies to two hospitals. They visited four orphanages. Yet the students give thanks to the people behind the scenes who boosted their spirits and donated money to get them to Ghana to make a difference.

“Our parents, friends, faculty, employers, strangers and more, have all contributed to something extremely special. You have a share in the responsibility for everything we do over here and that may be one of the greatest legacies of all,” wrote Hebert.

View the photos from Africa in the photo gallery.