Learning in South America: TWU nursing students take their skills to the Third World this summer

Langley, British Columbia–Melanie Jakovac’s friends will be doing the usual things this summer—working at the local grocery store, counselling at camps, catching some sunshine at the beach. Melanie’s summer will be anything but usual.

A student in the nursing program at Trinity Western University, Melanie will give up the conveniences of her home—running water, a comfortable bed, and the company of her family—for the dusty roads of rural South America. For one month, she will partner with local Guyanese in a village on the east coast of Guyana, a day’s travel south of the country’s capital city, Georgetown. She will live with a Guyanese family and work in schools, health clinics and with a church organization in the impoverished region, teaching health education and assisting with community development. And the best part—she will earn university credit doing it.

“I didn’t think I would be doing something like this when I started in the nursing program,” admits Melanie. “I’d heard about it my first year and thought it might be fun. But I didn’t even go to the meeting.”

Melanie, now going into her fourth and final year of TWU’s nursing program, laughingly admits that she missed this year’s meeting for TWU’s transcultural nursing course—again. But after hearing her friends talk about the opportunity, she thought, “This is a once in a lifetime experience. I have to do this.”

It is a once in a lifetime experience that several Trinity Western nursing students embark on each summer. This summer will be the eighth year TWU nursing students take their skills to a Third World country. And if you ask Janice Friesen, who went to Guyana two years ago, it is not an easy task.

“There are not a lot of supplies,” says Janice, who worked in Georgetown, home to 90 percent of Guyana’s population. “On the pediatrics ward it was challenging to even find clean linens and diapers.”

During her month in Guyana, Janice lived with approximately 35 children ranging from infants to five years old at a Red Cross home for abandoned children. “At first I thought it was really sad that the children were abandoned and that nobody wanted them,” says Janice, who did everything from giving the babies their bottles to holding and loving the children.

“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 several other children in their family in a tiny, one room place with parents who have little resources to take care of them. The workers at the home are like mothers to all of the children,” she says.

The experience changed Janice’s perspective on nursing. “There are just some things you can’t learn in a textbook,” she says.

“I really expect and hope to come back and realize how good we have it here,” says Melanie, who is putting the finishing touches on skirts and handkerchiefs she has sewn—attire that will help keep her cool as she works under South America’s hot sun. “And to realize not to take the things we have for granted. They are gifts.”

Trinity Western University offers a variety of travel studies opportunities to locations including New York, Guatemala, Northern Ireland, England, and Italy. To learn more, visit www.twu.ca/twest.

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,000 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: 2007-09-26