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GARDNER – When the first team of Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students came back from Haiti in January, they all said the same thing: we want to go back.
“There is a lot of beauty (in Haiti),” said nursing student Lori Belliveau while presenting the trip to other nursing students on Monday. “And it makes you think a little bit about what we have versus what they don’t have.”
The nursing students traveled to Haiti with Forward in Health, a locally started nonprofit that is providing health care to 7,500 people in the impoverished Fonde Fred region of Haiti. The trip was organized by Forward in Health cofounder Paula Mulqueen.
The students worked in health clinics, visited orphanages and nursing schools, and also had the chance to explore a little bit of the island nation.
The Mount is planning another trip for next January. The trip costs about $1,600 per person, but students found they were about to raise money to pay for the trip.
“It didn’t cost me anything,” said Ms. Belliveau. “My friends, family and coworkers were very generous.”
There is also talk of creating an exchange program where Mount Wachusett students would have the ability to live with and attend classes with nursing students in Haiti for a week.
Then the Haitian student would be able to attend classes at Mount Wachusett for a week.
Ideally, Mount Wachusett officials said, the students in the exchange program would be able to speak at least a little French.
By the next trip, Mount Wachusett students will be able to work in the clinic that Forward in Health will officially open this summer after years of fundraising and overcoming numerous hurdles, including the devastating earthquake of 2010.
“We are at the brink of opening the clinic doors,” Ms. Mulqueen told the audience. “We are doing a massive inventory and a massive setup. The scheduled date to open is Aug. 4. Great stuff is happening.”
The clinic will include a triage unit and offer permanent medical assistance to the region.
Since Ms. Mulqueen’s first trip to Haiti in 2002, she has traveled to the country 52 times, taking anyone who wanted to go and was willing to work, ranging from high school students to surgeons.
“International nursing is suddenly a hot topic,” she said. “Everyone is now going all over the world to serve.”
When choosing where to go and with whom to serve, Ms. Mulqueen recommends looking into an organization’s history in the country, the sustainability of its work, the compatibility of its objectives with that of the volunteer, and the group’s safety record.
For more information about traveling with Forward in Health, visit forwardinhealth.org.
The Gardner News, Katie Landeck, May 5, 2015