An interprofessional group of nursing and occupational therapy (OT) students led by Dr. Samantha Sasson from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY, shared their skills and compassion with local youth and adults in Heraklion, Crete. Dr. Sassone said Global Volunteers’ positive reviews and Philosophy of Service assured her the service opportunity was a good fit with the College’s mission, which draws from the work of Ignatius Loyola. Read on for details on the group’s contribution.
By Dorota Wierzbicka, Director of Europe & Asia/Pacific Operations
Le Moyne College Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Sassone has served on medical missions all over the world, and promotes to her students the numerous benefits of life-long learning derived from service abroad. These rewards and the opportunity to significantly impact local people’s lives compelled her colleagues – Dr. Meega Wells, Dean of the Purcell School of Professional Studies, and Professor of Practice, Dr. Marisa Davis – to join the college group they were forming.
The enthusiastic team of 11 lent their considerable skills in compassionate care and knowledge of the English language to youth and adults in classrooms, kitchens, and learning centers – and also helped improve the facade of a safe place for women.
As a bonus, Dr. Wells’ time in service with the students – outside her usual and numerous administrative roles – enabled a deeper understanding and familiarity between them. In fact, she said, she quickly felt connected to many of the students as the functional barriers between them dissolved at the work sites. At the same time, Dr. Davis’ passion for promoting holistic, client-centered practices gained energy by working in concert with her inspired students.
The students connected in new ways, too. Specifically, the team worked together, leveraging their clinical interview, observation, and evidence-based skill set, to analyze the community’s support and hindrances in access to public transportation, education, healthcare, and other social determinants of health. In this way, the daily service assignments advanced Dr. Davis’ goal of interprofessional collaboration between nursing and OT professionals.
The team’s and partner community’s goals came together in an expression of serendipity, considering how they found their Greece volunteer opportunity. Service in Crete became the groups’ back-up plan when safety concerns scrapped their original travel itinerary in another country with a different organization only a few weeks earlier. Looking back, the students and group leaders felt circumstances led them to Global Volunteers. Quoting famed English author Douglas Adam, OT student Alexis Wanchisen quipped, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
“I prepared meals in the morning, and then went to the school to teach English. Everyone kept saying how much we were helping, and to hear the teachers saying how much the children benefited from being taught English or practicing English with us, really made me feel like I was making a difference,” Jenna Grossman, nursing student, reported.
Dr. Wells also shares, “Education is the way to success, and our small contribution will help the students advance and live a more successful life. The staff and teachers were welcoming, kind, and grateful for our help. The children taught me very much about Greek culture. Kalliopi Chaniotaki, Global Volunteers Greece Team Leader, and the medical providers we spoke to helped us learn about the Greek medical system. “
“Education is the way to success, and our small contribution will help the students advance and live a more successful life.”Dr. Wells, Greece Volunteer
The group also assisted with painting the mural and cleaning the shelter for abused women, conducting the inventory at the food bank, and supporting the refugees from Syria and women from Greece at the Thalassa (Sea) of Solidarity center, where the women learn skills such as sewing or Greek and English languages.
According to Anastasia Myers, “it was very meaningful to serve in a community and culture that was not her own. It was also a very rewarding experience that not only increased her cultural competence but also made a strong impact on the community. “
Michael Chiarito, another OT student, adds that the “highs” of the program for him range from the thank you’s heard and the smiles received all the way to the actual progress he was able to witness within such a short period. He says, “Being able to immerse myself within this culture through community service has been an experience I could have never prepared for, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.” His favorite moments include meeting everyone and learning about Greek culture through their eyes, preparing food at the soup kitchen, painting the mural and cutting a lemon tree at the women’s shelter, as well as seeing a light bulb turn on in a kid’s eyes when he finally understood what he was trying to teach him. Michael is sure that he will hold onto these memories for the rest of his life, and he is so glad he made it a point to take pictures and portraits of the wonderful people he had encountered so he can look back one day and remember the amazing things he was able to do in Greece.
“Being able to immerse myself within this culture through community service has been an experience I could have never prepared for, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”Michael Chiarito, Greece Volunteer
A Le Moyne College team will serve families and children in January 2024 through the Reaching Children’s Potential Program in Tanzania.