Global Studies Trip to Central America

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SCC students and instructors in Guatemala.
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Lines of children wait to be seen.
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Children play games with SCC students and instructors while their parents wait to be seen for medical services.
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Radiology student, Lona Murdoch, plays bubbles with children.
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SCC nursing grads, Kylie Barchenger and Darcie Hagstrom, educating a young patient.

When Jill Sand came back from a Global Studies trip to Guatemala last June with students and staff, she knew there would be a special bond with her fellow travelers.

“You look around and you’re like, ‘this is pretty amazing’ and you know you can never duplicate this in the United States,” Sand said. “They learn things that will last them a lifetime.”

Sand, chair of the Respiratory Care program at Southeast Community College, along with three fellow instructors and 21 students spent eight days in the Central American country. The students represented a variety of SCC programs, including Surgical Technology, Respiratory Care, nursing (Associate Degree Nursing and Practical Nursing), Radiologic Technology, Dental Assisting, Medical Assisting, and Physical Therapist Assistant.

Students were able to treat local residents who don’t easily have access to health care and other modern resources. At times, people stood in line for hours, but rarely complained. Sand says this is great experience for health science students. Not only are they gaining important skills, but also fulfilling a need in the community.

“They treated all ages, did basic health assessments and rotated positions,” Sand said. “They were never stuck doing the same thing every day.”

Every spring and summer, SCC’s Global Education program takes various international trips. They provide opportunities for students to experience traveling abroad, while at the same time earning college credits and developing awareness of other cultures.

Students, faculty and staff are eligible for the trips, as long as they take the global education curriculum aimed at studying the particular country in which they will travel.

Dawn Starkey is an adult learner studying in the Associate Degree Nursing program. She had never been out of the country before and wanted to see another part of the world. When she heard about the Global Studies program at SCC, she knew it was something she had to do.

“It felt really good,” Starkey said about the trip and helping others. “The people were so incredibly grateful and thankful. I felt a little upset that I couldn’t do more.”

Starkey said every student and instructor rotated into groups where they would perform various assessments, including checking vital signs, blood sugars, blood pressure, and providing general health care education.

“It was neat to see a nursing student teach a radiology student how to do a blood sugar test,” said Sharon Rehn, chair of SCC’s Surgical Technology program.

“They were smiling and happy and appreciated all the information we gave them,” Starkey said.

The students and faculty spent time in Guatemala City, San Jose Pinula, the Monte Redondo Community, and Antigua. They would typically see around 250-300 patients a day with long lines, but people were happy to get the medical care and assistance they needed.

Sand said many of these people don’t get any health care services at all, and simple education was the most valuable thing they could teach them.

“People were so gracious and so hungry to hear about how they could help themselves,” Sand said. “The most valuable thing we can teach them is education.”

In addition to providing much-needed health care services, the group also donated more than 1,000 pounds of supplies from SCC employees and students before the trip. Items included shampoo, soap, deodorant, and educational materials.

While people waited in line for their turns, students kept the children occupied by playing kickball, blowing bubbles, showing them sidewalk chalk, and painting their faces.

“We got a lot of hugs, kisses and thank-yous,” Starkey said. “Even with the language barrier, we were able to communicate with them. Love is universal; it was precious.”

“I was getting so much from this trip,” Rehn said. “Toward the end is when you realize you have a strong relationship with all these people. It’s just enough time to fall in love with everyone on the trip.”

This was the second Global Studies trip for Sand, but she has been on numerous other mission trips. She says every trip is unique and has a special meaning. She loves when students see that, too.

“There’s a moment during every trip where I think things are working well, things are special,” Sand said.

“I’ve already decided I would like to do it again,” Starkey said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

In 2017, there are trips scheduled to Brazil, Italy, Cuba, Haiti, and Guatemala. The deadline to sign up for the trip to Italy is October 1. For more information, click on the Global Education Opportunities link. https://www.southeast.edu/globaleducationopportunities/

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For more information contact:
Andrea Gallagher Haggar
Marketing Specialist
402-323-3395
ahaggar@southeast.edu