MANCHESTER, NH – A group of 13 students and teachers from Manchester Community College will spend winter break on a medical mission trip to Santo Domingo, Ecuador. It’s the tenth such mission trip for students. In recent years they have partnered with Timmy Global Health, an Indianapolis-based volunteer organization that specializes in student-led missions to do outreach in South America.
The group will see up to 100 people daily come through the mobile clinics that they will set up. Donations of everyday items like toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and other toiletries will be given to each person. But they will also provide essential medical care, a rare commodity in one of the poorest villages in the country.
But they need your help.
This year, in an effort to defray travel costs for students, a shoe-drive is underway in partnership with another organization, Funds2Orgs.com. The students will earn 40 cents for every pound of shoes they collect, with a goal of collecting 100 bags with 25 pair of shoes in each bag, or 2,500 pounds of shoes, says Jill Reid, MCC Professor of Nursing, who has been a mentor to the student groups and participant in the trips for several years. Associate Nursing Professor Judee Landry is also going as a mentor.
Those 100 bags of shoes will earn the team $1,000 to be used toward supplies or travel and, in turn, the shoes will be given to “micro-entrepreneurs” in other countries, who will be able to sell the shoes in their villages to create economic independence.
“The shoes are a fundraiser for our team. We usually gather the items we need to take with us to distribute, but this year we wanted to find a way to help reduce the cost for students to go. We found Funds2Orgs – they send shoes to 25 countries to help them set up microbusinesses, and so it’s kind of a fundraiser within a fundraiser,” says Reid.
Jeff Zoucho of Manchester, an advanced manufacturing student, has been busy spreading the word about the shoe drive to his fellow students. Although most of the other students going on the trip are allied health majors, he just wants to be part of something bigger than his corner of the earth.
He got to talking with MCC Marketing & Business Communications Professor Michael Magoon a few weeks ago at lunch, and Magoon invited Zoucho to explain the fundraiser to his marketing students.
Then Magoon, who has a spreadsheet for just about everything, created a teachable moment for his students, on the economy of kindness through paying it forward. Magoon brought in five pair of shoes from his personal inventoried collection (which he uses to track the lifecycle of shoes divided by cost and ultimate value), and challenged his students to match his donation over the next several weeks – he will bring in four pair the next week, three the following, and so on, and expects his students will not only sustain the five-pair per week target but increase it exponentially.
“Here’s one person,” says Magoon, drawing circles on the classroom white board. “If you tell three people, what happens when those three people tell three other people? Anyone seen the movie ‘Pay It Forward?’ It’s amazing. I’ve seen it 18 times. It’s all about this concept. Look what happens – here’s Jeff; Jeff told me. I’m going to tell Melissa, Cody, and Brianna. And if you tell three more people, and you all find some shoes to bring in, it will keep going from there.”
The trip is January 5-14. Each person pays about $2,000 to go, which covers flight, housing, meals and in-country transportation.
They’re also in need of medical practitioners to join the group.
“The more practitioners we have on the trip, the better. With fewer practitioners it takes longer to see patients,” Reid says.
In addition to “well visits,” they normally see patients with everything from appendicitis, to heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
“And we see many people who are just finding out they’re pregnant, after we run their urine tests,” says Reid, so it’s kind of a unique experience. We will also see people who come to us with medication given to them for sexually transmitted infections. They can get the medication they need from a pharmacy – they’re given a needle, syringe and antibiotic in a bottle, but there’s nobody to administer it. They would otherwise have to pay someone $25 to give them the medicine. In a country so poor, they can’t afford it.”
While medications and other supplies will be sent to MCC by TimmyHealth in advance of the trip, and packed up by the team for travel, they are also looking for donations from the community for essential items, including toilet paper, sunscreen and sunglasses, and hand sanitizer.
“These people are very poor, and they don’t have any way to get to a doctor – there’s not consistent care. Most of our patients have intestinal parasites, which we treat with medication while we’re there, because they don’t have safe water to drink or indoor plumbing in many instances. There’s hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases. We need sunglasses because corneal burns are a big problem, as they’re so close to the equator,” Reid says.
“Even with the language barrier, the people coming into the clinic are accepting of us being there helping them, and we’re able to communicate, even without words, what we’re doing for them,” says Landry. “It’s really amazing for us that these students are volunteering their time during their own time off from school. This is a very difficult semester for them, and a lot of them need a break. But they’re taking their break time to do this, “says Landry.
“And it’s not a vacation,” says Reid. “We have some fun of course while we’re there, but we’re up early every morning, eat breakfast, talk about what everyone’s job is going to be for the day, pack up the bus, drive in the bus to the location and set up the clinic for that day – it may be in a community building a school or a church, wherever it is we divide and conquer, and set up our stations. Students get to go to a different station each day, maybe triage one day, or vital signs another, and enter information into the computer.”
During clinic hours students will do everything from giving fluoride treatments to kids ages 12 and younger, to running basic labs for hemoglobin or blood sugar, or urine tests for pregnancy or urinary tract infections. They may sit as a scribe with a physician for a day, typing information into a computer and helping to catalogue the array of treatment. They will also fill prescriptions, literally dumping them out of a suitcase and putting them in a Baggie with a label of instruction in Spanish on how to take the medication, says Reid.
The impression the trip leaves with students is a positive one, says Reid.
“We’re always so taken by how happy they are that somebody cares and is there to provide aid. We think of it as providing service to others. Students and faculty tend to find that we get as much out of the trip as we give, just to see the difference you can make in someone’s life by being there,” Reid says.
How to help:
- Donations of new of gently-worn shoes can be dropped off at Manchester Community College, 1066 Front Street in Manchester, any time by January 1 during school hours, marked for the Medical Mission Trip. Also needed: toiletries including toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, sunscreen and sunglasses. Contact Jeff Zoucho at email@example.com for more information.
- Medical practitioners interested in joining the trip should contact Jill Reid, firstname.lastname@example.org.