TICONDEROGA - A group of nurses from North Country Community College's Ticonderoga campus recently visited Honduras to give their talents to the poor. They came home enriched themselves.
"It was a life-changing experience," said Amy Russell. "There was something about the trip I can't put a finger on, but I feel better about my life."
Russell, a registered nurse and a clinical instructor in the NCCC nursing program in Ticonderoga, made the trip along with Jeff Subra, Kristi Mars and Mary Ciku, licensed practical nurses enrolled in the RN program at the college.
"It really gives you an appreciation for what you have," Subra said. "It's so neat to be from a small community and feel you've made a difference in someone's world."
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, with about 65 percent of the population living in poverty. The average income is about $26 a month.
The Ticonderoga contingent went to Honduras with Global Brigades, a student-led global health and sustainable development organization. Global Brigades mobilizes college students and professionals through skill-based service programs to improve quality of life in poor communities. Groups work in the areas of health care, dental care, public health, environment, architecture, law, business, finance and water development.
The NCCC group was teamed with students from the University of Southern Illinois Medical School. The group, which included doctors, physician assistants and nurses, treated more than 150 people a day in the communities of Los Animas and Guancasta March 26 to April 1.
"People walked for hours just to reach the clinic," Russell said. "We probably saw a total of 750 people in our four days."
A Global Brigade visits the communities every three to four months to provide needed care.
"We went into the communities, set up the clinic, did triage and referred people to the doctors," explained Subra, who made a similar trip in January. "We spent a lot of our time teaching people about things they could do to improve their health. There are a lot of water-borne illnesses, mostly because of lack of education."
While the NCCC nurses taught the Hondurans, they also learned.
"It was a great learning experience," Russell said. "You realize everybody has health care needs, no matter where you live or what you have."
"Every day you learned something new," he said. "You probably won't learn like that in clinical exposure in the United States. It gives you a greater appreciation for our health care system."
Subra went on a faith-based health care mission to Haiti a year ago. He discovered Global Brigade and went to Honduras with a group from the University of San Diego in January. Impressed with the program, he returned to the Ticonderoga NCCC campus and told others about it. "I just felt it would be a perfect opportunity for our small nursing program," Subra said. "We learned so much and we helped so many."
Other NCCC students have now expressed an interest in the Global Brigade program. Russell hopes to organize another trip soon.
"I really want to do again," she said. "I'd like to take other (NCCC) students and get some of the other professionals from our area involved. I had a great experience. I honestly can't wait to go again.
"I'd like to get as many people as possible involved," she added. "There's such a need. You need to experience it to really understand."