As we sat at the airport awaiting our departure to Belize, we looked around at the 11 anxious and excited faces of our students, attending Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) School of Nursing, and wondered what we were going to experience on our journey. Now looking back at our trip and all that we experienced, we were amazed at the goodness and mercy of God.
Upon arrival at the airport, our first experience was driving for 2 plus hours on a non-air conditioned school bus (in 90- degree humid weather) that took us across the country from Belize City to the city of St. Ignacio, our headquarters for the trip. St. Ignacio is located in the Cayo district of Belize. Cayo district is home to 20,000+, serviced by one hospital, one ambulance, and various clinics and pharmacies around the region. The landscape we all noted was stunning: rolling hills, lush greenery, palm trees and beautiful flowers. We also noticed run down homes, clothes hanging out to dry, run down or rotted vehicles in yards and roadways that lacked good, sturdy pavement. It was clear to all of us, that we had entered a country with much different living standards than we experience in the United States.
Eleven nursing students were blessed with the ability to provide two days of medical clinics. During the clinics they were able to experience running each part of the clinic, check-in/triage, vitals and assessment, assisting the physician and documentation, and pharmacy including dispensing and teaching. Over 200 patients were seen during the clinic days. Dispensing over 2,000 Ibuprofen (which can cost between $.50 -$1.00 a tablet in Belize), over 2,500 Acetaminophen, and over 3,000 adults and children’s vitamins were distributed as well as various other over the counter and prescription medications. As instructors, observing students working with the patients was so rewarding. Our students demonstrated so much compassion for these patients and found creative ways to educate them about their medicines and illnesses.
Three days of eyeglass clinics were held in two different cities. It was such a joy to watch our students as they fitted over 300 patients with eyeglass and sunglasses. What a joy it was to see their face light up as they could read again after not being able to for years. One favorite story was of a woman who we almost declared blind. We watched as our students took time and care to carefully test her eyes and search for that perfect pair of glasses. The joyful smile that filled her face and the tears in her eyes as she was able to see again filled the room.
For the remainder of our trip we were privileged to spend time observing in the local clinics and hospitals. Students spent time observing procedures, in the Emergency and Admissions departments, pre and post-natal clinic’s, experienced the differences in hospital policies and procedures, and welcomed three babies into the world. We were also able to tour a private hospital. Once again, we learned how truly blessed we are.
Throughout the trip we witnessed students grow in many ways. They tried something new, went an extra mile to make a patient comfortable, climbed hills to patient’s homes for a home visit, and climbed a 130 foot tall Mayan ruin when afraid of heights. A Bible verse that came from one of our evening devotions: Ephesians chapter 3:20-2. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever.” Quickly became the theme for our trip. It was heard being whispered as we climbed to the top of the ruins, as we climbed hills to patient’s homes into unknown situations, and as we faced new experiences each day.
Angie, pictured far left
Betsy, pictured second to right