Local nurses in training develop skills and compassion through international service

Langley, British Columbia—Ten Trinity Western University students recently returned to the Lower Mainland after experiencing nursing first hand in the jungles of South America. As part of a fourth year nursing class, the students lived in Guyana, South America for one month to help in hospital clinics and teach health education in schools. “We went there to learn about the culture and to learn about the role of nurses in Guyana,” says Evelyn Kulumba, a local, third year nursing student. “We contributed wherever we could.”

The students were stationed at five different health centers in Georgetown, home of 90 percent of Guyana’s population. “The main focus was on women and women’s health,” says Evelyn who helped out with everything from prenatal clinics to delivering babies.

The students found nursing conditions in Guyana much different than in the Lower Mainland. “There are not a lot of supplies,” says Janice Friesen, a third year nursing student from South Surrey. “On the pediatrics ward it was challenging to even find clean linens and diapers.”

A highlight of the experience was living at a Red Cross home for abandoned children. The students lived with approximately 35 children ranging from infantry to five years old. “They got up very early,” laughs Janice. “At five o’clock we’d hear their little voices. We’d hear their breakfast prayer and could only understand their “amen” which they would all say together.”

For Janice, living with the children was the best part of the trip. “My richest experience was with the kids,” she says. “I would pick up the babies and give them their bottles. It was so special to me. I loved being able to do something, even if it was just holding them. I felt like I was doing something important because the children are important.”

Her views on the Red Cross’s home for abandoned children also changed. “At first I thought that it was really sad that the children were abandoned and that nobody wanted them,” says Janice. “But then I got to see it in a different light. They get taken care of really well there—probably better than if they were left at home with ten other kids in their family in a little shack with parents who can’t take care of them. The workers at the home are like mothers to all of the children. That was encouraging and it didn’t make it as sad as I originally thought it would be.”

This is the sixth year that the transcultural nursing course has been offered at Trinity Western University. In the past it has taken Trinity Western nursing students to Belize, Central America. This year, the nursing department changed the destination to Guyana.

“Going to Guyana has taught me that there’s a lot more to nursing,” says Janice. “There are just some things that you can’t learn in a textbook.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling 2,763 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2012-08-21
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