EvCC nursing students learn while providing third-world care

EVERETT — It’s not often that nursing students get direct experience helping people in underdeveloped countries, but 20 students from Everett Community College will get that chance later this year.

The students and three faculty members plan to fly to the Dominican Republic in December to provide free medical care in poor communities surrounding Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital.

It’s the fourth year in a row that the college has sent a group, said EvCC nursing instructor Candace Whedon, who is leading this year’s effort.

The students themselves see and help diagnose the patients. In many relief programs, only established professionals are invited to do hands-on medical care, according to Whedon.

“The students always say it’s a very life-changing experience,” she said.

The group works with Foundation For Peace, a charitable organization based in New Jersey. The foundation provides medical care, education, water, food and other assistance in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Kenya.

Foundation For Peace connects the EvCC groups with poverty-stricken areas where medical care is needed. Churches in those areas serve as hosts for the group, Whedon said.

The students and faculty pay their own way, with $1,500 per person covering round-trip airfare, room and board.

The group raises $3,000 each year to pay for antibiotics. Two car washes so far have raised about $1,400, Whedon said. More events are planned but not yet firmed up.

The group also is rounding up donations of other supplies such as over-the-counter medications, vitamins, toothbrushes and other hygiene items.

Foundation For Peace hires Dominican doctors to assist the students in their work, Whedon said. The EvCC faculty members then administer medications in accordance with the diagnoses.

Infection from unclean drinking water is common in these areas, and volunteers typically treat many parasitic infections and related malnutrition.

The groups work for three days and usually see about 500 patients per day, or 1,500 total. The patients are always very thankful, Whedon said.

“They’re just very happy and grateful for anything you can give. They’re not mad that they don’t have more,” she said.

For the faculty and students, “you feel like you’re getting more than you actually give.”

The program was started by former EvCC nursing instructor Cindy Weber. A representative from Foundation For Peace spoke at Weber’s church, Whedon said.

The program appealed to the EvCC faculty especially because it provided the direct experience for the students, Whedon said. Weber headed the program the first three years before moving to San Diego, leaving Whedon in charge.

The students do a presentation on the trip after they return, said Sandra Fowler-Hill, EvCC executive vice president of instruction and student services.

The talk inspires many students to take the trip in following years, she said.

“Our nursing students really want to take advantage of this opportunity,” Fowler-Hill said.

“It’s really touched the lives of all our students and helped them to be more informed global citizens.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

How to help

A group of Everett Community College nursing students and teachers plan to fly to the Dominican Republic in December to administer health care in impoverished areas.

The group seeks donations of over-the-counter medications, vitamins and hygiene items as well as cash for antibiotics.

For a list of needed items, or to make a donation by cash or check, contact Candace Whedon at cwhedon@ everettcc.edu or 425-388-9462.

Supplies can be dropped off at Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St., outside Liberty Hall 361 or the Student Activities Office in the Parks Student Union room 209.

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