Twelve University of Maine nursing students, a recent nursing graduate, and a faculty adviser are raising money for a Spring Break public health, service-learning mission with underprivileged families in and around the city of Belize in Central America.
Undergraduates, members of the UMaine Orono Student Nurses Association, will be accompanied by UMaine School of Nursing lecturer Susan Wheaton, RN, Feb. 27 through March 6, working with medical teams in Belize. The program is coordinated by the International Service Learning organization, a non-governmental organization that has offered medical service volunteer programs since 1993 in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Africa.
After orientation and field training upon arrival in Belize, the UMaine students will set out in teams for towns and villages to conduct community health surveys to assess health services needs among villagers. Those identified as in need of medical care will be invited to a clinic staffed and supervised by licensed medical professionals. Students will rotate through patient intake, triage, examination, diagnosis, treatment and pharmacy stations.
Expenses are estimated at just more than $2,000 per traveler, according to Nancy Fishwick, director of the UMaine nursing school. Students have set up a website for blog posts and tracking fundraising.
“Being able to travel with nursing students to areas of need in health care will provide this opportunity of growth both personal and, more importantly, as a nurse,” Wheaton says in a recent blog post. “If you can support these nursing students … you will be part of an amazing journey. Everyone at some points needs the special care of a nurse.”
A passion for public health and justice in healthcare fuels her interest in the project, says Spanish-speaking Allison Doe, a fourth-year nursing student from Bowdoinham. Doe has previously volunteered independently at an Ecuadorian pediatric hospital, with the Chilean Red Cross and with migrant workers in Downeast Maine.
“Traveling to Belize will be a wonderful opportunity for a mutual learning experience between both us, the travelers, and the communities we will be serving,” Doe says in a blog post. The students hope this will be the first of ongoing annual visits to Belize.
The next fundraising event the students have organized is a bake sale and raffle Dec. 5-6 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Memorial Union.
Contact: Allison Doe, (207) 423-0193; Susan Wheaton, (207) 581-2594