May 12, 2023
VINCENNES, Ind. - A dedicated group of Vincennes University Nursing students, alumni, and faculty traveled to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip this spring to serve the local community and provide medical aid to those in need. Nurses on a Mission volunteered at an orphanage and distributed hundreds of care kits with hygiene items, donated medicine, and even paid for a doctor to treat patients.
The trip was eye-opening for the team of 20 individuals, including nurses, a pharmacist, and physical therapy assistants from the community.
VU students gave up their spring break to help better the daily lives of others.
One VU Nursing Major Kelsey Howard of Odon, Indiana, never realized how much of a difference she and others could make in the lives of people who have so little. It was humbling for her to help a community in need.
“From this experience, I gained more confidence in myself and some new acquaintances,” Howard said. “I feel good about myself being able to help those that were in desperate need of medical care.”
Nurses on a Mission was founded by five VU Nursing faculty in 2014 who felt a calling to do global cross-cultural nursing and provide services and medical care in severely impoverished countries. The volunteers have made eight trips to the Dominican Republic, partnering with the Foundation for Peace.
“We invite VU nursing students to join us, as volunteers, on the annual trip,” VU Nursing Professor Mistene Halter said. “Students are immersed in cross-cultural nursing and have the opportunity to enhance many of their nursing skills. They conduct physical assessments, provide health education, provide hygiene supplies, and provide medications for common ailments under the supervision of VU Nursing faculty and Dominican physicians. We have had several VU nursing graduates attend the trip for the first time as a student, and then they have returned with us on multiple trips over years, serving as a registered nurse.”
During the recent trip, the group learned about the challenges faced by the local community. For example, a family only had one toothbrush for the entire household, now each has their own. That’s one of the reasons the hygiene kits provided by the group and other services are vital.
Nurses on a Mission stepped in to provide much-needed assistance and support to these families who lack access to basic medical care.
This service truly takes a village, and the support volunteers get from the community is overwhelming. Good Samaritan donated medical supplies and medications and the Knox County Health Department contributed hundreds of COVID test kits this year. In addition, an area pharmacy donated vitamins, multiple dentists gave toothbrushes, and numerous community members gifted monetary donations and luggage to transport supplies to the Caribbean nation.
VU Chemistry Professor Dr. Ivana Peralta was a translator for Nurses on a Mission during the trip. She was struck by the resilience and determination of the people they served.
"Despite the many challenges they face, they have a strong sense of community and a willingness to help each other," she said.
VU College of Health Sciences and Human Performance Dean Michelle Cummins spoke about the importance of the trip.
"At Vincennes University, we believe in developing our students into responsible global citizens who are committed to making a positive impact in the world," Cummins said. "This trip was an opportunity for our students to live out that mission and make a real difference in the lives of those who need it most."
This sentiment was echoed by Halter.
“VU students and faculty gave up their spring break to help others,” she. “They are rewarded with a global education and a better understanding of the world around us. This not only changed the lives of the families we served but also enhanced the lives of those who volunteered to serve.”
The trip to the Dominican Republic was a life-changing experience for the students and faculty who happily gave their time. It was a reminder of the importance of helping those in need and the impact that even small acts of kindness can have.
"Learn In Order To Serve" is VU’s mission statement. The volunteers embody this spirit.
“I like to help others in need,” Howard said. “I also saw this as an opportunity to improve my skills as a nurse.”
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