Spring break: For most it is a time to get away from campus, go on a vacation, or go home to visit family for a week.
Not for Lauren Donar, a senior nursing student from Lemont, and Zoe Schmidt, a sophomore nursing student from Edwardsville. They spent their spring break at Sacred Valley, Peru, near the base of Machu Picchu, volunteering their time under the organization of Challenges Abroad.
Challenges Abroad is a group that has many opportunities for people to get involved with service trips all over the world. The main headquarters is located in the U.K. The group partners with the FutureSense Foundation group, a nonprofit that supports development in underprivileged communities, to set up volunteer activities in certain countries.
“Challenges Abroad contacted Transcultural Coordinator Melissa Moody about the opportunity, and she sent the information out to the students,” said Donar. “From there, we were in contact with the organization and worked to plan the trip.”
On March 5, they left the United States and arrived in Cusco, Peru. For the next week, Donar and Schmidt volunteered in the clinic and local school in Sacred Valley, Peru. They took blood pressure, height and weight, and assisted with assessments at the clinic. At the local school, they created health promotion lessons for grades 1-5, and taught the students first aid, anatomy, personal hygiene and healthy eating. At night, they spent time with their host families, and attended salsa dancing lessons.
One of the highlights of their weekend was visiting Machu Picchu—described as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
The Student Nurses Association (SNA) held a donation drive for supplies for Donor and Schmidt to bring on their trip.
“For our personal hygiene lesson, we used toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap to enhance our lesson,” said Donor.
All of the students received supplies to keep and use at home. One of the teachers even implemented oral hygiene into the school day, which thrilled the nursing students. The class takes a break during the day to go and brush their teeth with the supplies that were donated from SNA. The principal of the school is planning to work with the parents to reinforce what Donar and Schmidt taught about personal hygiene. The school was thankful for the supplies that were donated, and informed the nursing students they would continue using them in school.
“I am thrilled Lauren and Zoe had this amazing opportunity,” said Moody. “Traveling abroad is an excellent experience for students, and provides an avenue for personal and professional growth.”
This was Schmidt’s first volunteer trip.
“Being able to experience another country and meet so many wonderful people was incredible,” said Schmidt. “The food was amazing, and Peru was gorgeous. I learned a lot and had a great time!”
Donar previously participated in MCN’s Transcultural Experience where she traveled to Londrina, Brazil, to learn about the healthcare system and culture of the country, but this was her first volunteer trip. She said her favorite part of the trip was working in the school. “There, we were able to directly make an impact in the children’s lives.”