Three Wilkes University students gained hands-on experience recently during a study abroad trip to Tanzania. Nursing student Ariel Velez and pharmacy students Sarah Brozena and Erica Chambers spent two weeks volunteering with grass roots organizations, learning about global health, and enjoying local customs.
While the students were away, they shared their adventures with loved ones back home via blog posts. Family and friends can read first-hand accounts of their experiences on the blog https://communityserviceintanzania.wordpress.com.
Velez, of Hazleton, Pa., spent time working with the staff at the R.C.H. healthy baby clinic. His days at the clinic were devoted to preparing and administering polio and tuberculosis vaccinations while program staff educated new mothers about the diseases and the importance of immunizations. The staff also made house calls. On the blog, Velez wrote, “On some days, some of the staff of R.C.H. went to rural villages to vaccinate and weigh babies. I was so happy I had the opportunity to attend. Overall, working with the staff from the R.C.H healthy baby clinic was a rewarding and fulfilling experience.”
Brozena, of Larksville, Pa., volunteered in the pharmacy at Nyakahanga Hospital. Her experience included dispensing medications and preparing IV fluids. Brozena was surprised by the differences in pharmacists’ jobs between the two countries. For example, in the United States, IVs are pre-mixed and sold in plastic bags, but in Tanzania, preparation required a three-step process. She wrote, “My experience at the Nyakahanga Hospital shows how pharmacists around the world have varied and sometimes unexpected roles.”
Chambers, of Middletown, N.Y., volunteered at the care and treatment center at Nyakahanga Hospital. The center specializes in counseling and treatment of patients with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Chambers worked directly with the nurses on patient intake and chart maintenance. She wrote on her blog, “Over 70 patients come to this clinic on a daily basis, so I was always able to keep busy. I greatly enjoyed my time at the clinic because I was able to learn a lot about various medications for HIV treatment. I will miss my time at the clinic because I made extraordinary connections with the nurses and I was able to practice my Swahili.”
The students also visited Mavuno, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which focuses on education, farming, conservation, water harvesting, sanitation and microfinance to help improve the quality of life in the region. They traveled through a wildlife preserve area to visit Baramba Secondary School for Girls and Rusoma Falls along the Rwanda-Tanzania border. They also spent time enjoying the hospitality of the Ntimba family, learning about local foods, songs and customs in the family’s home.
The students were accompanied on their trip by Wilkes University professor Linda Winkler, Wilkes University alumna and Misericordia University professor Cynthia Mailloux and Misericordia University graduate Kelsey Feinman.
Winkler has made 16 trips to Tanzania in the last 14 years to work with AIDS orphans and provide students and faculty with an immersion academic study abroad program focusing on communication studies, global health and international development. “There’s a huge interest in global health and one of the easiest ways to teach students is to immerse them into it,” said Winkler. This year’s students were all very committed to making the best of the experience.”