The nine senior nursing students from St. John Fisher College arrived in Ipalamwa, Tanzania with a clear assignment: To leverage their clinical capstone project to assess the heath of RCP mothers and children, and support caregivers on home visits. By combining their emergent skills with a desire to serve, they had the opportunity to help those who need it the most while building up their expertise.
In the remote Ukwega ward of Tanzania, Global Volunteers engages short-term volunteers to help the mothers of the community give their children a healthy start in life. Volunteers are engaged in a village-based Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) program that provides women with simple strategies, technologies and encouragement needed for vastly improving their families’ well-being.
The depth of assistance provided through the RCP program compelled the students to travel across the Atlantic from Rochester, NY to share their knowledge and learn about healthcare delivery in the African country. In addition to providing “hands-on” support, they delivered a workshop on reproductive and menstrual health and introduced cycle beads (and taught how to make them) as a family planning tool — very empowering for those who can’t take pills or don’t want to use implants. Upon their return, they encouraged health care professionals and students to likewise participate in this rewarding program.
“I was so happy to be taking the last two weeks of my degree in a place where I could both expand my knowledge and assist others.”Blair Darcy, St. John Fisher senior nursing student
Senior Mackenzie Dowdle said she was grateful to be able to finish nursing school on the ground in a country that needs compassionate help from the outside world. “I’ve never done a trip that has enabled me to expand my professional knowledge and get on-hands experience on what I studied, and I am so happy I did.”
Blair Darcy agreed: “It was ideal to be taking the last two weeks of my degree in a place where I could both expand my knowledge and assist others.” As an example, she recounted one of the most memorable, but unexpected experiences of the two weeks: delivering a baby early one morning. “It started by a startling knock on my door at 2:57 AM,” Darcy said. “Ana, the clinic director, was outside and announced, ‘there is a baby.’ I jumped out of bed, got ready, got down to the delivery room in the clinic and helped deliver the baby by 5:36 AM,” she enthused.
Ashely Schubart, another attending nursing student that morning, said the experience was quite different from births she experienced at home in the U.S. She admitted the process was “very eye-opening,” saying, “It showed me that extraordinary things can still be accomplished with very few resources.”
“This experience to develop myself personally and professionally has been absolutely amazing for me,” grinned Maddison Seamon.
“I’ve wanted to travel to Africa for some time, and this service program enhanced me professionally, and was the perfect experience.”Andrea Stanchus, St. John Fisher senior nursing student
Serving On Health Care Work Projects
During their two-week service, the students were engaged with the local community on various projects such as accompanying Global Volunteers’ RCP staff on home visits with a goal to encourage, educate and support women on improving the health and development of their children. In addition, they conducted interactive workshops with pregnant women and parents on family planning and sexually transmitted infections. Such ongoing workshops help parents build knowledge resources in diverse areas.
“During the home visits, I assessed mothers and babies, and offered advice and support to improve health. I was surprised to see how thankful and welcoming the Ukwega community was to volunteers. It gave me so much joy to help people who needed and were so thankful for our service.”Emily Wilmshurst, St, John Fisher senior nursing student
Furthermore, Anna Garrabrant said she wouldn’t have previously imagined easily sharing life stories and common experiences with African families and staff on such a personally and professionally enriching journey.
“Education was always at the center of our work and I could recognize that it was helping the community.”Andrea Stanchus
Some of the students were surprised by the village mothers’ openness to new health care approaches and practices. “Family is the center of everything in Tanzania, and the mothers of the community are doing the best to learn how to keep themselves and their families healthy.” Victoria Merrick reported.
Learning about Tanzanian People and Culture
By interacting daily with the local community through the clinic, workshops and home visits, the students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Tanzanian culture. Each day, their understanding expanded in the most unique way, enabling deep insight into the struggles and triumphs of everyday life in rural areas. “It opened my eyes to the realities in the community,” Ashely Schubart said.
“I met the kindest people, a community that works together to overcome the challenges that faces, children who greet you with gigantic smiles, and mothers who crave knowledge to enhance their health and the health of their families.”Anna Garrabrant, St. John Fisher senior nursing student
“I have fallen in love with the culture of Tanzania, ” Darcy concluded. “Everyone is so present and focused on true ‘now.’ I have spent every day with a smile on my face and everyone else around me has had one too. People of Tanzania are so welcoming and kind, and I think that is what makes it such a wonderful place to be.”
Lessons of a Lifetime
“I leaned so much about healthcare that I can take into my nursing career.”Hannah Dixon, St. John Fisher senior nursing student
Serving in Tanzania as working nurses in a different healthcare system, the students said they gained confidence, perspective, and a depth of knowledge. Through this project, I learned that I am ready to graduate college, and become a nurse. The assessment skills I acquired on the home visits and the skills I was able to practice in the clinic not only enhanced my leanings, but also my confidence in my knowledge,” said Anna Garrabrant. Do they believe they contributed as much as they they gained? Humbly, they say “yes,” measured by the full days of planning, teaching, advising, listening and comforting. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity to grow as a new nurse,” Andrea Stanchus said.
“I’ve learned so much about myself and my abilities, I developed myself professionally and got the confidence I needed to kick-start my career as a nurse, but most importantly I had the opportunity to connect with the local people and touched so many hearts.”Ashely Schubart, St. John Fisher senior nursing student
Are you a health care professional or student looking to volunteer abroad?
Physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, lab technicians, dentist and health facility administrators are all needed to treat patients and share their expertise in Tanzania and Peru. If health care is your chosen path, then healthcare-oriented volunteer service programs abroad are an amazing place to start, refresh, or add to your career! Learn more here and contact us to register!