For the first time in the 99-year history of the School of Nursing at Beebe Healthcare, students and faculty embarked on an international service-learning trip.
In August 2019, a MEDLIFE chapter was started at the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing. MEDLIFE stands for Medicine Education and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere.
This allowed the school to start planning and fundraising for service-learning trips. For the inaugural trip, the students chose the destination of Lima, Peru.
MEDLIFE provides aid in many different countries; however, the largest chapter is located in Lima. On Jan. 18, the faculty and students embarked on a 24-hour journey to Peru. The group consisted of 21 students and two faculty members.
In Lima, students and faculty participated in activities which served the communities in and around Lima by way of mobile clinics. These clinics provide free, high-quality health care directly to communities which lack access to basic health services. MEDLIFE staff, local healthcare practitioners and School of Nursing volunteers aided in keeping the stations running smoothly while providing care to numerous members of the community. By partnering with the local practitioners, the clinics are able to meet the current needs of the community and the same providers stay in the community after the volunteers complete their trip.
“It was such a humbling experience to assist individuals in providing health care to people who may have never seen a doctor at the age of 40,” said senior nursing student Mariah Little. “These individuals allowed us to touch their lives, but little did they know they impacted mine even more as a human being and as a future nurse.”
The MEDLIFE experience also included an educational component. Students and faculty were able to learn some Spanish and assist with teaching the children how to properly brush their teeth. There were also education sessions for the adults which focused on common health problems seen in the community, as well as the identification and treatment for those illnesses.
The MEDLIFE program also participates in the development of community with a focus on building infrastructure to aid in access to basic resources. Many live without electricity, water, bathrooms and safe exits or roads. The MEDLIFE program requires a 50/50 working relationship with community members in order to bring needed resources to the area.
While there, the group built a 45-meter staircase. Students and faculty worked side by side with community members all day.
Community members not only worked with the volunteers, but many had worked at their regular jobs, and then continued on another staircase that evening after students left for the day.
The week consisted of long, hard days but it also consisted of moments where students and faculty could explore the coastal town of Miraflores. As students worked on building the infrastructure of the community, participating in health screenings and educating locals, they also created a shared experience which bonded this group of future nurses.
At the end of the trip, the group got to return to the completed staircase they helped build earlier in the week. There was an inaugural party for the staircase, and a large community-wide celebration complete with singing, dancing and food.
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