When students in Greenfield Community College Associate Degree Nursing Program consider serving their community, they think beyond the borders of western Massachusetts. For a week in January, ten GCC nursing students and two instructors will take their commitment to community service learning to Ixtacapa, Guatemala where they will work in a medical clinic, help build houses, and learn about Guatemalan culture. The GCC group will travel with Partners in Development, an organization based in Ipswich, MA that coordinates trips for groups seeking to do service in Guatemala and other countries. In 2014, a group of GCC Nursing students and instructors did a similar community service learning trip to Haiti. The students who will travel to Guatemala range in age from 21 to 45 years old and include both first-year and second-year nursing students. The trip is being funded by a combination of support from anonymous donors, fundraising projects, and the students.
Lauren Duncan, 22, of Turners Falls explained why she is eager to travel to Guatemala, “GCC’s Nursing program emphasizes the importance of nurses being cultural competent. They prepare us to serve diverse communities and populations. I am doing a rotation at Holyoke Medical Center and have learned about the challenges of caring for someone whose language I don’t speak. This trip will give us an opportunity to be totally immersed in nursing in a different culture and to spend a whole week with the great instructors.”
Cassy Sicard, 25, of Northampton, said, “We’re really privileged with the health care we have available to us in our area. It’s important for us to learn about the experiences of those who are not as privileged as we are. At GCC, we’re taught to consider our patients holistically, including the environment in which they live. By working at the clinic and helping build homes, hopefully we will show the people in Ixtacapa that people from outside of their country care about them and are willing to help in improve their lives.”
Sarah Cook, 23, of Charlemont, said, “I have traveled outside the United States, but only to big cities. I look forward to gaining experience in a smaller community in Guatemala and learning more about how to care for people from a different culture.”
Cheri Ducharme, Professor of Nursing, and Mary Phillips, Assistant Professor of Nursing, will accompany the students on the trip.
Phillips said, “This kind of learning is extremely beneficial for our students. I am immensely grateful that GCC and the community supports us in helping provide this type of cross-cultural educational, clinical, and life experience for our students. It is unique for a small community college like GCC to provide this type of opportunity for students. One of the great things about this kind of experience is that the second-year students take on a mentoring role with the first-year students.”
Ducharme said, “We have done three community service learning trips to other countries with GCC Nursing students. This trip will give Mary and me an opportunity to form a different relationship with the students as we live and work with them for a week. This shared experience will translate into a strong bond among us all. The students are very dedicated to this trip. They initiated it and have worked hard to make it happen.”
GCC’s Nursing program includes requirements for students to complete community service learning projects. Local projects include fall flu clinics, blood pressure clinics, and teaching young children about health care through “blood and guts” programs at local hospitals.
To help support the Nursing student trip to Guatemala, community members can make donations to the GCC Foundation (https://www.gcc.mass.edu/foundation/give-to-gcc/) or call 413-775-1602, earmarking their gift for the Nursing students’ Guatemala Program.
By Mary McClintock, ’82