Some students see reading week as an opportunity to catch up on homework, an excuse to go on vacation, or a chance to spend time with friends.
But 10 health science students from Humber College saw it as an opportunity to do more. They travelled to Guatemala for an eight day volunteer mission that would ultimately change their lives.
“The purpose of the trip was twofold,” said Dean of Health Sciences at Humber College Jason Powell: to help support Humber students in an interprofessional collaborative practice mission, and embrace the concept of global citizenship and the wish to give back.
The volunteer trip included three students from the Practical Nursing program, six from Bachelor of Nursing and one from the Early Childhood advanced diploma. As well, one paediatrician and one family physician joined them on the trip, said Frankie Burg-Feret, a Bachelor of Nursing professor in charge of the mission.
Burg-Feret said the group stayed in an orphanage called Valley of the Angels, where they conducted examinations of children.
“There were 200 children there and we were able to do health assessments and screening processes on all of the children,” she said.
They also visited communities and set up outstation clinics in both rural and urban areas, said Burg-Feret.
“We saw hundreds of people and really made an impact,” she said.
Student volunteer Jesse Jardin said his favourite moment from his experience was seeing the faces of the children and the families after they were able to help them.
“I liked watching the students working so hard, hugging the children, I loved it when the children came running to them,” said Burg-Feret.
She said it was really fulfilling for her as a teacher to see them responding that way.
Burg-Feret said some of the hardest parts of the mission were when girls revealed they had been sexually abused. Another striking memory she mentioned was looking in a child’s mouth and seeing that all the teeth were brown and rotting.
“It was unbelievable and it’s hard to imagine seeing that in North America,” she said.
Burg-Feret said it was a great learning experience, cultural immersion experience, and a team building experience for the students.
“I think this experience allowed me to grow as a person,” said Jardin.
“Happy does not even begin to explain my emotions following the trip,” said Orlee Benson, another nursing student volunteer.
Burg-Feret hopes to organize the trip again next year and both Jardin and Benson recommend the experience to Humber students.
Burg-Feret said she was proud of the students’ professionalism. They were caring and respectful with everyone they encountered.
“They truly represented Humber College in a manner that the dean and faculty of Health Sciences can be proud of,” she said.