By Roberto Rojas
Feb. 4 to Feb. 11, 20 nursing students and professors from Sacred Heart University’s nursing program traveled to Guatemala to provide services to people who may not have proper healthcare.
While this wasn’t the first time trips have been offered to travel to Central America, the experience was well received by those who went.
“The experience was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me,” said senior Brianna Paolini. “If someone were to ask me if they should go, I would not second guess and would tell them to go.”
Services that students provided to the people of Guatemala took place in three different communities throughout the country.
“We provided care for Guatemalan newborns [and]to the senior citizens,” said Dr. Susan M. DeNisco, professor of the Nursing Practice Program. “We saw patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, upper respiratory infections, joint pain, issues in pregnancy and for well child care.”
The simple, yet positive, aspects of the trip, as well as the happiness of the Guatemalan children, were some of the things that stood out for the students and professors.
“These children didn’t have much, but they all had great spirits,” said Paolini. “Seeing these children smile at the sight of a stuffed animal or when playing games with us melted my heart.”
As for the professors in the program, they saw this trip as one in which they were able to provide themselves as mentors and help fellow student nurses.
“We worked with these students before and have an understanding of the culture,” said Dr. Michelle A. Cole, assistant professor and Guatemala Mission Coordinator. “They’re really aware of, first of all, themselves, and the issues happening there too. We try to make them aware of everything and give them an open mind to help one another.”
Service trips will also be held over the upcoming spring break, including Guatemala.
“We will have service trips to four different countries during spring break,” said Dr. Matthew Kaye, Director of Volunteer Services. “In Guatemala, the focus will be on health and elementary education and in Colombia, the focus will be on elementary school students and local families.”
The Office of Volunteer Services will also be offering other opportunities for students to get involved.
“We will have a trip to Nicaragua with the focus on social work, as well as Costa Rica with the focus on elementary education,” said Dr. Kaye.
Looking into future service trips, both students and professors highly recommend them to prospective and current nursing students due to the diversity and openness they offer.
“This is an experience that can’t be summed up into a few simple words or even pictures,” said senior Anjelica Sitek. “This opportunity will give you the chance to learn a culture that, in many ways, is quite different than the United States. This program truly brings out the passion in thriving nursing students.”