Courtesy of Nursing Students Without Borders
Rosalind DeLisser teaches health care en Espanol to Red
Cross volunteers in San Sebastian, El Salvador.
Nursing student group
serves Salvadorans and migrant workers
residents of San Sebastian, El Salvador, struggle with a host
of ailments, such as skin infections, gastrointestinal problems
and cervical cancer, that could easily be prevented with a little
education about basic hygiene and safe sex.
to provide that education is Nursing
Students Without Borders, a group founded last fall by fourth-year
nursing student Matthew Walden and some friends, who heard about
the village's health care challenges. The U.Va. student-run group
has made two of six planned trips to San Sebastian to assess the
community's needs, teach basic health care topics and train future
health care providers.
nursing student Matthew Walden, who co-founded Nursing Students
Without Borders, examines an El Salvadoran man.
is also launching a program this fall to work with migrant workers
in the Charlottesville area.
two doctors and three nurses who see about 300 patients a day
in the government clinic that serves San Sebastian and the surrounding
rural communities -- 23,000 people in all -- gladly welcomed NSWB's
March and July visits.
addition to a truckload of medical supplies donated by Charlottesville
hospitals through the MERCI project, which was started by U.Va.
nurse Helen French, NSWB brought two emergency medical technicians
to train Red Cross members. There's a pressing need for EMTs,
since the closest hospital is 30 miles away and, with no ambulance
in the village, people must take a bus or hitch a ride, Walden
students also researched the treatment of diabetes in the area.
"Some people defied all medical logic: they had had diabetes
their entire life, but they never thought twice about it,"
members are currently working with nursing professor Emily Hauenstein
to analyze the information they gathered and create an intervention
program to be introduced on a follow-up trip.
student Esther Miller gives some TLC to a baby named Sofia.
has to be our main focus, because that has the greatest long-term
benefit for the community," said Walden. During the 10-day
visit in July, he worked alongside 10 Spanish-speaking nursing
students and registered nurse Teri Woodard, a 1998 nursing graduate,
to train local Red Cross members in peer education.
"I was so impressed by the intensity, intelligence, dedication
and motivation of the Red Cross members learning new methods in
health care and taking the reins," he said.
one particularly challenging lesson, two 20-year-old Salvadoran
Red Cross members discussed the implications of unprotected sex
with a class of teenagers.
students were dismissive at first, but the Red Cross members got
their attention, getting them to take the topic seriously. They
played roles, modeling verbal responses women and men could use
if being pressured sexually.
transmitted diseases are common, he said, as are infections caused
by polluted water and insufficient hand washing. Town residents
are supplied with running water 10 days a month, while those in
surrounding areas must haul it from wells, rivers or town. Neither
group has electricity, and they live in tile-roofed adobe houses,
many of which have dirt floors.
exposed to Third World conditions, especially a lower standard
of health care and health promotion, made us realize how lucky
we are to live here with all the resources necessary to have long,
healthy lives," Walden said.
trip made us aware of how important it is to [attend] to the cultural
needs of people who come into the health system at U.Va. ... We
saw the importance of respecting their spirituality, their family
roles, their views of sexuality and reproduction, and their religious
beliefs," he said.
NSWB is currently raising funds to provide a multipurpose education
center and medical clinic for the Red Cross in San Sebastian.
The Albemarle County Rotary Club has promised to donate three
times the amount NSWB has raised by Oct.1, 2000. (Anyone wishing
to donate items may contact Walden at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Local migrant camps
volunteering for years with a Nelson County rural health outreach
program and visiting El Salvador twice with NSWB, Teri Woodard
saw the obvious next step: to create a way for the group to serve
local Latino migrant workers.
found Albemarle County to be in particular need of NSWB's services,
since the migrant coordinators from the county department of education
have ended up addressing health issues, in the absence of a program.
Woodard, NSWB's local action coordinator, and the 20 or so nursing
students and community members she has gathered will conduct an
orientation for volunteer interpreters and begin working with
local migrants this fall.
will visit a camp one night a week and do health education, trying
to improve their access to health care," she said. "A
lot of the illnesses they have are preventable -- dehydration,
heat stroke, urinary tract infections," she added. The migrants
are mostly men aged 18 to 55, but include some families. Woodard
met a woman who was six months pregnant and had received no prenatal
care, though her previous infant had died of spina bifida (caused
by folic acid deficiency in the mother), she said.
is difficult because they're only in one place for two or three
months, based on what crops are in season," she said. "Those
with diabetes or tuberculosis may move and run out of their medications."
There are four migrant camps in Albemarle County, but the program
will start with one, making weekly visits and assessing how to
help the migrants -- from their perspective.
"There are so many health care providers in this town, but
so many barriers for the migrant workers," she said. "I
want to bridge that gap."
how easy it is not to consider the people whose hard work keeps
our food costs down, she said, "It's a great opportunity
for students and community members to have this intercultural