17:09 PM

UST Nursing Students Spread Healing in Kenya

By Brittani Wright

Maasai Mara Tribe and UST nursing students in KenyaThree University of St. Thomas nursing students traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, this summer with Bethel’s Global Reach to care for patients in need. The two-week trip included clinical work, health information sessions and other activities while attending the needs of the nomadic Maasai Mara Tribe. More than 600 people were seen.

“It was a different experience for our students,” Dr. Lucindra Campbell-Law, professor for Peavy School of Nursing and mission trip faculty member, said. “In terms of health care issues and concerns, the Maasai Mara Tribe have some of the same chronic illnesses that we have here.

“We arrived in Kenya with volunteer nurses, dentists, clergyman and educators,” Campbell-Law said. “We took a holistic approach to their health care needs. We saw patients with varying degrees of parasitic infections, hypertension, glaucoma, diabetes, wound infections, dehydration and malnutrition.”

Bethel’s Global Reach Aligns with UST’s Mission

Bethel’s Global Reach is a non-profit organization that provides care through volunteers including medical, dental and humanitarian aid to communities all over the world. This organization aligns with the mission of UST and the Peavy School of Nursing that teaches students to engage holistically with a patient. They learn to treat the whole person - body, mind and spirit.

“Bethel’s philosophy,” Campbell-Law said. “is if someone is hungry or hurting, that person will not listen to you evangelize them. They too, look at the whole person when caring for them. We formed this relationship with them in 2014 and since that time, I have made five mission trips with this organization.”

UST Nursing Students Create Healing Environment

Jazmin Valdez Torres and Maasai woman The mission trip to Kenya is part of a summer externship where students are prepped in pre-mission training before traveling. Students receive a scholarship from the study abroad office.

While in Kenya, 90 hours of clinical, and 15 hours of didactic were completed.

“It was the perfect opportunity,” Jazmin Valdez Torres, senior in the nursing program said. “We would rotate taking vital signs, then we would shadow the doctors and nurses.”

When the Maasai Mara Tribe heard that medical care was available to them, they traveled from all over to be seen.

“UST always emphasizes that we are not just treating their illness,” Valdez said. “We are also there for them spiritually. There was a language and culture barrier, but just a pat on the back, sharing a hug, or smile always translates. Someone had to get their tooth extracted with no anesthesia, so I held their hand the whole time.”

UST Students Leave a Footprint in Kenya

During their time in Kenya, a woman was due to give birth. Although the nursing students are not qualified to deliver babies, they wanted to be in the room.

“The Maasai Mara Tribe,” Valdez said. “gives babies their traditional African names, and an American name. The mom chose my name, Jazmin, to be the babies American name. I have a God daughter in Kenya. That was a special moment.”

There were other special teaching moments for Valdez.

“It really makes you appreciate what you have,” Valdez said. “Bethel’s staff explained that we were going to see how little they have, and we shouldn’t feel bad for them. They are very grateful and happy for what they do have. That was very inspiring to me. This experience allowed me to take a step back and appreciate the simple things of life.”

Looking Forward

“I would love to go back as a registered nurse,” Valdez said. “To see a different side of experience, and engage more with the culture.”

Future nursing mission trips may include Honduras and Israel.