Penn State students team up for service trip to Honduras

SCHUYLKILL, Pa. — This marks the first year that students from Penn State's Schuylkill, University Park and Harrisburg campuses will embark on a weeklong trip over spring break to Honduras. The group will participate in medical and construction brigades.

The service-learning trip, spearheaded by Dr. Marianne Adam, Penn State Schuylkill’s RN to B.S.N. program coordinator, in collaboration with the Penn State College of Nursing, will work with Healthy Niños Honduras. 

According to the MAMA Project, an organization established to build a "wall of protection" around children born in adverse environments, Healthy Niños Honduras emerged as a new organization based on their past work in Honduras. Organizing service teams and health brigades to the San Francisco de Yojoa, Cortes area of Honduras, Healthy Niños focuses on helping children with malnutrition.

The trip’s four-fold purpose for Penn State students includes understanding the burden of disease, health needs and disparities of people living in developing countries; applying culture-specific values in promoting nursing care and global healthcare; performing the role of student nurse and global healthcare worker in practice as defined by the designated study-abroad site; and immersing students in a multicultural experience.

Adam, who previously led three similar healthcare trips to Honduras at another institution, said, “These trips are transformative and life-changing for students, both informing their practices and expanding their horizons. These trips are so much more than resume builders that help them stand out to potential employers, as they give students a greater understanding of what is happening outside of the United States.”

The students are enrolled in an elective nursing course that includes an embedded travel component. Over the course of the week, students will participate in four health and construction brigades in small Honduran villages. 

A typical day on the service-learning trip will include working with Healthy Niños staff to monitor blood pressure, check for anemia, and disseminate deworming medicine and vitamins. Physicians and a dentist will be available to assist with the healthcare needs of the community.

To round out the trip, the cohort will pour one or two cement floors in village homes aimed at decreasing the risk of intestinal parasites and respiratory conditions. “Helping to mitigate the effects of these two serious problems has a big impact on the families,” Adam explained. 

Kate Manni, assistant director for faculty-led programs and special initiatives at Penn State, commented, “Short-term, embedded education-abroad courses give students the opportunity to travel abroad with faculty leaders and experience first-hand what they have been learning in the Penn State classroom.  Dr. Adam and her students will not only learn local health care practices and systems during their time abroad, but they will also return to their respective campuses with a new perspective that they will share with their colleagues and classmates, thereby enriching the academic experience of the campus community.”

Data from Adam’s previous trip indicates the potential to impact the health status of approximately 500 Hondurans over the course of the week.

The expansive work of Healthy Niños Honduras includes a Nutritional Rehabilitation Center, service teams, community education, deworming programs and procuring medical equipment and supplies. 

Faculty and student travel is partially supported from a variety of sources, including the Penn State Global Programs Faculty Travel Grant, the Penn State College of Nursing, the Commonwealth Campuses Group Travel Grant, a Barnes and Noble Education Grant, and donations directly to Healthy Niños Honduras.