During the winter recess, a group of MWCC nursing students, alumni and faculty members spent a week in the Caribbean, though swimming, snorkeling and tropical feasts were not on the agenda. Rather, they went to Haiti to provide health care to impoverished children and adults served by the Gardner nonprofit Forward in Health.
Forward in Health, founded by Dr. John Mulqueen and MWCC alumna Paula Mulqueen, RN, is dedicated to providing health care to residents in a rural area just outside Les Cayes. The organization has organized more than 50 mission trips since 2001, and is now in the final stages of building a clinic to serve residents in one of the world’s poorest countries. On these trips, they bring with them medicine, supplies, volunteers from the community – and hope.
The trips are strenuous, but rewarding and life-changing, said Paula Mulqueen, a 1994 graduate of MWCC’s nursing program. “It was a privilege to take my alma mater to the third world,” she said. “Our MWCC nursing pin is engraved with the words “Service to Humanity and the World, and this trip was a true testament to the Mount and to Gardner that we have produced the finest nurses who are willing to step outside their comfort zone to serve others.”
Faculty members Katherine Pecorelli and Kathy Panagiotes, nursing students Diana Bronson, Lori Bellieveau, Katelyn Halfrey and Dawn Fuller, and nursing program alumni Marquita Day and Donna Muse joined Paula on the mission trip Jan. 3 to 13. Forward in Health board member Debbie Orre, former director of MWCC’s nursing program, joined the healthcare team, along with several other volunteers from the community.
Days before they were set to leave from Boston, the trip was nearly canceled due to a new round of political unrest in Haiti. Once there, the country’s electricity was not working for much of the time. The volunteers were there for the country’s National Day of Mourning on Jan. 12, marking five years since a massive earthquake devastated the island.
Without access to health care, even the most common of ailments than can be cured with over the counter medicines in the U.S. can become full-blown health issues in Haiti when left untreated, such as respiratory illness and skin infections.
“I believe the nursing students develop a deeper compassion, understanding and empathy,” after serving in this capacity, Pecorelli said. While in Haiti, the team of volunteers held a mountain clinic and assessed close to 100 patients, she said. In addition to the time spent administering direct care to patients, volunteers visited an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, and tool in some local sites.
“Forward in Health has created a safe, welcoming and bonding method of bringing various people from the community to Haiti,” said Professor Panagiotes.
“I think this experience makes me more grateful for the things that I have in the U.S. and I would love to do more to help,” said student volunteer Lori Belliveau.