International Health Care Trip to Guatemala

Monday, February 09, 2015


“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Gandhi 

In early January of this year, sixteen SF State/Sequoia nursing students and two faculty members, Dr. Brenda Lewis and Colonel Connie Carr, NP, embarked on a volunteer medical trip to Guatemala. The group chose to proudly wear matching shirts while traveling to symbolize group camaraderie and cohesion. Gandhi’s profound quote above was printed on the back of their shirts to represent their motivation on going on such a mission.

The goal of the 9-day trip aimed to serve underprivileged Guatemalans in poverty-stricken towns. Students and faculty worked with local doctors and nurses in a variety of health clinics located within a 30-mile radius from their host family in La Antigua. Students were divided into 6 teams and placed in different clinics depending upon their skill set and ability to speak Spanish. They helped conduct prenatal exams, pediatric and adult wellness checks, gave preventive injections, and performed full body assessments. Some students had the opportunity to work in the pharmacy and dispensed various medications prescribed by clinic physicians. Brenda and Connie offered their guidance and expertise throughout the trip. They were great mentors as students were put to the test providing medical services in an environment that spoke a foreign language with different customs, practices, and resources than they are accustomed to.

By the end of the week, the group was able to help serve hundreds of Guatemalans in need. Many lives were improved thanks to the combined efforts of the local Guatemalan medical staff and the SF State/Sequoia nursing students and faculty. The trip was a huge success. It opened the hearts and minds of the participants. The students hope to inspire other SF State nursing students to serve underprivileged populations both locally and internationally in the future. In fact, after hearing about the wonderful experience Cohort X students had in Guatemala, Cohort XI has decided to plan an international volunteer trip next winter.

In spite of working in an unknown environment, without the resources many are accustomed to working with, the students were able to work with what they were given and provide thorough care. Many students overcame a language barrier and learned how to communicate through body language and touch, a tool that is very important in the profession of nursing. The urge to continue to volunteer both internationally and locally will never dwindle from our hearts. We all left feeling fortunate to be able to experience the culture and health care of Guatemala. The nursing students will take this experience with them as they graduate this May and will relay their cultural sensitivity and newfound knowledge into the working world of nursing. Many thanks to Rebecca Sackman, SF State SN, and International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), an organization that helps plan volunteer trips worldwide, for organizing such a memorable and life-changing experience.


Deanna Albiani

SF State/Sequoia Cohort 10

NSA President