Nursing students’ “holiday” in Haiti

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published March 23, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I was so impressed by these young women, especially Keziah, who organized this trip and has given much of her time to helping others. I hope they all continue along this path of generosity.

WHO: Keziah Furth, 22, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., and 10 other nursing students from Northeastern University.

WHERE: Haiti.

WHEN: A week in December.

WHY: To volunteer at Hope for the Children of Haiti orphanage and Grace Health Center medical clinic.

Keziah Furth (center) with Milouse (left) and Edeline of Port-au-PrinceFARAWAY CO-OP: Furth learned about the orphanage from a fellow churchgoer who was on the board there. “I took two short trips and loved it, so from January to May 2007 I did my co-op there,” she said of the Northeastern work-study program. “The people are just so warm and so welcoming. They have absolutely nothing, but the tiny things they do have they want to share with you.”

MANY HANDS: Although the trip, which Furth led, wasn’t connected with the school, all the volunteers were nursing students, and all women. “We went through friends, family, churches, and hospitals to raise money and supplies,” Furth said. “We ended up with $4,000 more than we needed for ourselves, so we gave that to the clinic and orphanage.”

Julie Aleksa (left) with Monsanto Georges of Port-au-PrinceEYE OPENING: The women spent their first and last days at the orphanage, in an impoverished area of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the rest of the week at the clinic, in rural Cazale. Most of the students had never been to a developing country; Haiti is the least developed in the hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. “A lot of the girls were overwhelmed by the poverty and the trash and how different it is, but they handled it quite well,” said Furth, the only one in the group who could speak French, one of country’s official languages. “I was really impressed.”

NURSES IN CHARGE: At the clinic, headed up by an American nurse, the students rotated basic roles. “We checked blood pressure, did weigh-ins, well-baby and prenatal checkups, consults, and emergency rooms,” Furth said. “The girls had to learn some of the French Creole vocabulary, which they picked up insanely fast. They loved every minute of it. It was cool in particular because this clinic is nurse-run, without a doctor, so it was fun to see a nurse in charge and making all the decisions.” Malnutrition is a big problem in the area, as is lack of care. “People would leave their homes in the mountains and walk all night to get to the clinic in the morning.”

Amy Stachowski (right) teaching JeanineCAREER DAY: Back at the orphanage, they showed the older children what it was like to be a nurse. “We did basic CPR and nurse training. Some of the kids are going to finish high school soon, and we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce them to what nursing was like,” Furth said. “They loved it. You should have seen them with that blood pressure cuff. They went crazy. My girls really bonded with them over that.”

Keziah Furth (left) with Nehemie of Port-au-PrinceTO ALL A GOOD NIGHT: Later that day they hosted a Christmas party for the children. “They always get one group gift, so we brought gifts donated from our nursing class so every kid could have an individual gift. We had brought over 22 suitcases that all weighed over 50 pounds,” Furth said. “The kids put on a little pageant and decorated our team like we were Christmas trees. We’d filled stockings for each of the kids earlier, and an intern put one on each bed so they’d be there when they went to bed.”

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