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Students volunteer in Belize for Spring Break

Posted on 03.27.2013

Some people relax over Spring Break, others spend time with family and friends, but one group of University of Indianapolis students spent their Spring Break volunteering in Belize.

Assistant Professor of Nursing Susie Oliver began UIndy’s alternative break tradition by taking nursing students to the Dominican Republic during Spring Break. Assistant Professor of Nursing Kathleen Hetzler and Nursing Laboratory Coordinator Rebecca Cartledge now direct the program.

This year, instead of going to the Dominican Republic, the group went to Belize, a country roughly the size of Rhode Island with a population of about 300,000 people.

The decision to go to Belize this year was a way to strengthen ties with Galen University, a private university in partnership with UIndy.

“It’s a great opportunity to support that relationship and build that relationship. This university [UIndy] is all about partnerships. While Galen does not have a nursing program yet, I hope with time they will,” Cartledge said.

One student team was sent to work in the Emergency Room and Maternity Ward at San Ignacio Hospital.

“San Ignacio Hospital is ill equipped for major trauma cases,” Hetzler said. “Anything that comes into the Emergency Trauma area that is major, they ship on to the regional hospital in Belmopan.”

While one group stayed at San Ignacio Hospital, another went to help children with disabilities. The third group went to help Mary Open Doors, a local group that aids battered women and children.

Normally, each group would have separate stories of the people they helped, but  this time, the groups had a common patient who affected all of them.

A group of University of Indianapolis nursing students volunteered their 2013 Spring Break in Belize. Photo contributed by Rebecca Cartledge

The team that worked with children with disabilities went to the village of San Antonio to provide a checkup. While there, they also checked the vitals of a mother who was severely anemic, malnourished and living in squalor.

“The group working with MOD was told about her at the nightly briefing sessions the three groups had,” Hetzler said.

Hetzler took her students to get groceries for the woman and her children. When they delivered the groceries to her, they brought the MOD liaison along.

The liaison gave the woman contact information,  in case she needed more help, and asked her to get tests at San Ignacio Hospital. When the woman arrived the next day, the students working at the hospital were ready to receive her. When the students mentioned their friends, the woman knew she could trust them.

“She asked one of our students to stay with her during the tests,” Cartledge said. “[With] all three of our groups helping [the woman], I know that was divine intervention. If we hadn’t been there, it could have been months before she made it into the system.”

Senior nursing major Katie Cripe said that working at MOD made her realize that she enjoyed working with children.

“It showed me that I really want to go into pediatric nursing,” Cripe said. “I enjoyed helping the kids.”


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