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Right at Home in Haiti: Nursing Students Make Service Mission

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This reflection was written by Melissa Meadows ‘13 (MEPN), who traveled to Haiti on a service mission in January with seven other students from the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing and Professors Kathy Marsh and Susie Hutchins. The group volunteered in Milot, a town in northern Haiti.

This past January while conducting community assessments in the rural hills of Haiti, I met an intriguing stranger wearing a Florida ball cap. I struck up a conversation, while pointing to his hat and trying to explain that Florida is my home state.  He was a smiling Haitian man named Henry, the same as my late father.

This strange small coincidence created an immediate sense of connectedness with these new people.  I was invigorated with a new sense of purpose and resolve for our mission.  Life had taken me to an absolutely remote place, but I had already found a little piece of home.

Prior to this experience I knew very little about Haiti, except that it was a country vastly different from the United States economically. I wasn’t entirely sure what we were going to find there, but I quickly discovered that the heart of the country was its people. When asked what they wish for out of life, “health and happiness” for themselves and their loved ones was almost always the reply. I believe this is true for most Americans. When you have your health and your family, happiness tends to follow.

That is why I have developed such a passionate interest in the nursing profession. It is not simply a job filled with systematic tasks, but a life of helping others through their most vulnerable times. This mission is what attracted me most to University of San Diego’s nursing program. The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science has been dedicated to providing medical care across borders while giving students profound experiences to cherish for a lifetime.

Our first few days were spent at an orphanage housing children five years old and younger. The love and compassion given by the year-around volunteers there is deeply inspiring. They not only provide medical care, but the emotional support necessary to help these children cognitively develop during the transition to adoption.

Our next stop was Hôpital Sacré Coeur, located in Milot. There we encountered several obstacles. Some challenges included limited resources and lack of medications. We wanted so desperately to help those in need. Together we rallied to provide the best possible care despite these limitations.

The patients were so grateful for our help. We cleaned and bandaged third-degree burns without the luxury of pain medication. These patients would sing or pray during their dressing changes. They showed an indescribable strength even in the face of insurmountable adversity. It was at these times when you felt most overwhelmed, but had to remind yourself of the goal of improved health.

Haiti was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. Though trying at times and amazing at others, I learned so much about myself. It tested my limits and certainly took me out of my comfort zone. It is these valuable self-discoveries that will further influence my career and the way I choose to nurse. The trip to Haiti was my first mission abroad, but it most certainly won’t be my last.

– Melissa Meadows ‘13 (MEPN)

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