May 2015 saw two Clayton State University faculty, eight RN-BSN nursing students, and a physician with a specialty in radiology, travel to the island of La Gonave, Haiti, for the School of Nursing’s annual Haiti Study Abroad program.
According to Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Charlotte Swint, who led the Study Abroad program along with Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Jennell Charles, “our focus was to provide support to health initiatives at the 30-bed Wesleyan Hospital, the Bill Rice Clinic, and through mobile maternal outreach clinics in remote mountain villages. Dr. Robertson carried a portable ultrasound machine to train physicians on how to do sonograms, focusing on pregnant women. It was only a week out of our lives, but a lifetime impact.”
Clayton State student nurses who participated in the Study Abroad program talk about their experiences in humbling and life-changing terms…
“La Gonave, Haiti; the most humbling experience you will ever have. The day-to-day complaints and problems you face will seem minute when you visit this beautiful, yet tragic place. Tennille Hicks, RN-BSN student
“It’s been wonderful to see that caring knows no geographic boundaries. This trip has offered opportunities to grow as nurses and human beings. There is still much to be done in this country, yet every effort and `little thing’ our group has done has been met with incredible smiles and graciousness from the Haitian people. A wonderful week!” Pam Haron, RN-BSN student
“The trip has given me a wide range of experiences and emotions that I wouldn’t trade for the world. From remote villages to a lush resort, the adventures were endless. Haiti has shown me things about myself that I otherwise may not have realized. I will miss being a part of an awesome crew of nursing students.” Angela Boyd, RN-BSN student
“This experience has made me appreciate the simple things in life that are easily taken for granted. I will never take for granted easy access to water, clean drinking water that easily is available once I turn on my faucet; having electricity; and eating even one meal a day. I would encourage all nurses at Clayton State to participate in the study abroad program in Haiti. I am leaving with much more passion, awareness, and humility.” Venezia Leveque, RN-BSN student
“My experience in Haiti was a life changer. It has opened up my eyes. Even though it was hot, and the poverty is very visible almost everywhere, going around and speaking to the people and doing education was a joy. Just to see how appreciative they were for having a simple sonogram and them seeing their babies and knowing what the sex was – it was a delight to see their reaction. I have a lot to go back to the states and ponder about; family and how people take a lot for granted. I’m thankful to the team Dr. Charles and Dr. Swint, they made it even more awesome.” Tsahai Allen, RN-BSN student
“The trip to Haiti was a unique experience that I think any student can benefit from, especially nurses. It opened my eyes to how fortunate people are who live in a place where systems and processes are in place to keep its citizens healthy and thriving. But it also showed me how that even when there is a lack of many basic necessities, the spirit and faith of communities can help them maintain and overcome struggles.” Lexie Coar, RN-BSN student
“I will have to admit that I was dreading this trip, mainly because I did not know what to expect. The experience was amazing. We learned so much medical and cultural information, but more important, I think we learned about ourselves and each other. The trip definitely is life changing. We have so, so many stories to share. I am so glad for this experience!” Cindi Chambers, RN-BSN student
“I will miss the beautiful souls that live here. They may not have much, but they have the most important thing you can have in this life, and that’s faith. I am forever changed, humbled and grateful for this experience. From delivering babies, playing with children in the village, and teaching the nursing students, there will never be a day I don’t think about my time here in La Gonave! Truly a once in a life time trip.” Trisha Roberts, RN-BSN student
“I too am grateful for the time to learn and once again be humbled by the generosity of a people with so few resources,” says Charles. “I am also grateful for the spirit and compassion of the students who travelled with us. Over and over again, the Haitian nurses and doctors remarked how sensitive, knowledgeable, and compassionate our students were. It was a privilege to be travelers with them."
“The nursing students in the RN to BSN program at Clayton State are amazing!” adds Swint. “Because these students are already nurses with an associate’s degree, they were able to serve as students and health care providers. We worked with first year nursing students from Haiti, doctors from Haiti and the U. S., nurses from the U. S., social workers from the U. S. to care for patients in the new hospital in LaGonave, the hospital clinic in LaGonave, the Bill Rice Clinic, and mobile clinics in Trujacques for school children and Ticolette for pregnant women.
“Dr. Charles’ knowledge of and experience with agencies in Haiti helped our group to have the greatest impact possible in the week we were in Haiti. This program is truly life-changing for all participants.”