Nine Selkirk College nursing program students have arrived in Guatemala to promote health, develop skills and continue a partnership that has touched many lives for almost a decade.
The Selkirk College-Guatemala International Nursing Experience practicum has been sending students to the Central American country since 2005. Over those years students have done their part to foster global understanding and made a difference in a nation that’s one of the poorest in the region.
“Originally I thought it would be a really good personal experience and professional experience, seeing how nursing can be transferrable to other countries,” nursing student Melissa Mazereeuw said last week as the group made its final preparations for the trip.
“As I began to learn and grow in my own nursing knowledge, I discovered that there are a lot of reciprocal things happening between the north and south. I’m hoping I can go down and bring down some knowledge back to my community.”
The nine third-year students and program instructor Mary-Ann Morris are in Guatemala and will be working with communities until May 24. They are joined by Nelson resident Michael Chapman who has acted at the facilitator of the practicum since it began.
Providing Health Care at the Grassroots Level
The goal of the practicum is to explore how community development and health are positively linked. The students collaborate with their grassroots community organization partners in addressing fundamental social issues such as poverty, inequality, discrimination and human rights violations. One of the primary partners is the Association of Women in Solidarity which works with women labourers in factories located in free trade zones surrounding Guatemala City.
“It’s a lot of work, but throughout the year we have been learning extra skills,” said student Braden MacLeod.
“One of the reasons I chose to do it was to explore the evolution of nursing. As the definition of nursing broadens, so does what nurses do. It goes beyond the hospital and clinic as we begin to explore things outside of our bodies and how it all affects health.”
Guatemala has a population of 15.4 million and is comprised of more than 60 per cent descendants of the ancient Maya. The country was gripped in a civil war between 1960 and 1996 which continues to have a profound impact on its people.
“This is an important trip for those taking part because we are continuing on an important relationship and helping it evolve on the work that has been done by students in previous years,” Mazereeuw said.
Community Support Key in Practicum Success
The trip is optional for students, but does fulfil the practicum requirement of the program course load. Students began fundraising the $23,000 required to help pay for the trip in October and put on several events in the community.
Through that work and reaching out the community in a variety of ways to get supplies for the people they work with in Guatemala, the experience goes beyond the actual journey south.
“The build-up and planning has been just as rewarding and beneficial,” said Mazereeuw.
“Both personally and professionally, we have been called upon to use and hone skills we didn’t even know we had. We’ve really had to try new things and step out of our comfort zones. This will be beneficial to us when we are in the south.”
When students return from Guatemala they will be expected to present their experiences to the community through a number of different events over the next year.