January 19, 2017
11,399 miles from home. 21 hours of flying. 14 days. 10 students. Seven-hour time difference. Two advisers. One world.
How do you measure what it means to make a positive impact on someone's life?
This is something one just cannot put a number on.
For fifth-year senior Ashleigh Allen (Glastonbury, Conn.), junior Brittany Bushey (Pittsford, Vt.), and junior Erin McCarthy (Old Lyme, Conn.), the opportunity to spend the Endicott College 2017 Winter Intersession in Cape Town, South Africa as part of the two-week-long Endicott College Intercultural Nursing trip was an experience of a lifetime they could not pass up.
These student-athletes, with Allen and Bushey representing Gulls' field hockey team, and McCarthy, on the women's lacrosse team, are three of 10 Endicott nursing students abroad right now under the direction of Endicott's Nursing School Associate Professor Nancy Meedzan and Vice President and Dean of Academic Resources and Student Success, Kathleen Barnes.
Allen, Bushey, and McCarthy have been in South Africa since January 7th, where they are volunteering with the Global Vision International (GVI) organization and staying in Gordon's Bay, about 40 minutes outside of Cape Town until January 21st of this month. They are keeping a blog for family, friends, and the Endicott community for those who want to read more about their adventures on the blog: Lions And Tigers And Gulls..Oh My!.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Each day, the group is working with the local townships to teach women and children about first-aid safety and personal health, in areas such as self breast exams, nutrition, hygiene, and women/child empowerment.
Immersed within the South African culture, the Endicott nursing students are also working in the schools and crèches (daycares) with the local children and educating them through creatively-designed health workshops and colorful posters.
According to their January 16th blog entry, the group spent the day teaching a class of about 25 children all about germs and how to take preventative action with hand washing, teeth brushing, body cleaning, getting adequate exercise, and protecting against the spread of germs through proper sneezing and coughing techniques.
For instance, Bushey was part of the group in charge of instructing about the importance of hand washing and did so by showing the young children how to wash their hands while singing the A-B-Cs to know how long to wash for.
McCarthy's group also chose song as an effective means of communication across language barriers to help demonstrate how to clean one's body by singing the "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" song, so the children would remember to clean every part of themselves.
Allen was assigned to talk about the importance of getting exercise, so she came up with the idea to have the kids walk around like elephants, run like monkeys, and slither like snakes, all while making fun animal noises!
THE LEARNING PROCESS
"Before we came to South Africa, we prepared by reading about the people and the culture and how they live. However, no pictures or articles can really do justice to what the actual townships are like. Meeting the women and children of the area and listening to their realities is extremely eye opening," said Allen.
Allen spoke of the reciprocated learning that is taking place on the trip.
"By listening to the women and having them ask us questions, we have been able to gain a greater appreciation for their culture. This will greatly aid in our clinicals and future careers as nurses," said Allen. "We understand now that a simple thing like speaking slower, can make a big difference in whether or not a patient opens up and communicates with you," said Allen.
COMMUNITY AND RESPECT
Something they all have noticed is the South Africans' sense of community. Everywhere Allen, Bushey, and McCarthy go, they say people are greeted with a "hello", no matter if the friendly face knows the person or not.
"After interacting with the women and children, it is amazing to see how people appreciate life," said McCarthy. "Countless people in the communities told us that their happiness isn't based on their economic standing or how big their house is, but instead on their character and if they have respect for others."
This idea of respect is one that as Endicott student-athletes have said they want to bring back to the Beverly campus community.
"Saying a simple hello or giving a wave really will unite our Endicott community, just like the African culture we have encountered here. I think we are all going to take this mentality and try to apply it in our daily lives back home," said McCarthy.
OPPORTUNITY TO GO ABROAD
As for the opportunity to go abroad, Bushey reflected on her first time traveling out of the country.
"Being able to experience first hand and see how others live and go about their daily lives has been very eye opening. It has also been very rewarding to be able to teach the women and children in these communities and see how much they appreciate what we are doing. I absolutely recommend going abroad to everyone— it has been a life-changing experience for me," said Bushey.
"We are extremely lucky to have had this opportunity and are very happy to share it with the Endicott community," McCarthy echoed.
To learn more about the nursing program at Endicott, please visit http://www.endicott.edu/nursing.aspx.
This news originally appeared on the Endicott College Athletics page: www.ECGulls.com.