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Volume 11 Edition 5: January/February 2012 Emily Holmes, Editor

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Faculty Corner!

In July, 2011, Dr. Sharon Morrison, Associate Professor of Public Health, took a group of 10 students to Zambia for a multifaceted course, Community Service Learning in International Health (HEA 407/697), designed to provide an international experience to both graduate and undergraduate students in public health and other disciplines. While in Zambia, students did most of their work in and around the city of Livingstone, which is a home to Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Livingstone, however, is also home to one of the highest recorded HIV rates in the world. Students were grateful to have the opportunity to offer basic public health services to the people of the local community and say that it was “worth every minute!” Read more about the students’ experiences below.

UNCG students in Zambia

Dr. Sharon Morrison (center right) and UNCG students at the Livingstone Airport

Worth Every Minute: International Health Serve and Learn In Zambia
Submitted by August Elliott, Betty Foh, Laura Peoples, Sheri Vettel, and Dr. Sharon Morrison

Weighing babies in Zambia

UNCG student, Laura Peoples, weighing babies

“♪Beep beep mzungu bus, Beep beep mzungu bus.... ♫” This was the chant of the children of Zambia as they ran beside the bus that brought us to our project sites. We heard this chant each morning as we rode to the medical projects where we volunteered and conducted research. Our medical projects included clinic work, home-based care, and other projects, such as working at Maramba Old People’s Home and at the only hospice facility in the area. We also made special efforts to address the HIV epidemic since one in three people in Livingstone is living with HIV.

Our HIV-related activities included HIV testing and consultation, education for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), education outreach in high schools and prisons, home-based care for households affected by HIV, and performing arts HIV prevention and outreach.

Taking blood pressure in Zambia

UNCG student, Sheri Vettel, taking a patient's blood

In the clinics, we engaged a range of experiences which included giving health talks, providing antenatal care to pregnant women, and weighing babies. In order to offer home-based care, we walked for miles in the African bush alongside home-based caregivers who knew the patients and served as our interpreters as we visited patients in their homes. We applied “on the ground” training to cleaning wounds, taking vital signs, and recommending ways to improve general health with adequate hydration, nutrition, and exercise. In addition, we provided vitamins, oral re-hydration solutions, and pain relievers.

Although our work seemed very minimal to us, for many of our patients our assistance was huge. Our presence, interest, and willingness to spend time with them were just as important as the healthcare we provided.

While we loved the morning medical projects, the FUN really began each afternoon! We balanced our medical work with community projects such as participating in after-school reading and art clubs, sports, building, painting, farming, and adult literacy. The manual labor was not a hardship when you were able to look around and see the smiling faces of the beautiful children that would benefit from our hard work. Getting to spend time with them was especially rewarding. We truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the people of Livingstone in both the medical and community projects.

Zambian children

Worth every minute!

We tempered the intensity of this service-learning with a healthy dose of regional recreation. Our recreation included taking a safari in Botswana, hiking to the boiling point of Victoria Falls, relaxing on a sunset cruise, visiting a Zambia-style Sunday church service, and even witnessing a lunar rainbow. We also spent a lot of time walking through town and visiting local markets. Even a trip to the grocery store was an adventure! We immersed ourselves in as much of the local culture as we could squeeze in each day.

During our trip, we learned that health is important no matter where you live. We also learned that the people of Zambia are extremely resilient and that the elderly are a valuable asset to the community. We were also inspired by the Zambian people and their efficient use of their limited resources.

Reading club in Zambia

UNCG student, August Elliot, at the reading club

The adoration of the Zambian children as they ran beside our bus is just one memory that we have carried with us since our return to the United States. From the breathtaking scenery to the chance to sharpen our public health skills in an international setting, this was an experience we will never forget. The experience and skills we gained are priceless! We highly recommend that students take the opportunity to study and serve abroad. Zambia was an experience that touched lives forever.

For more information about this experience, please visit our class blog at: http://zamblogger2011.blogspot.com or the course website, http://www.uncg.edu/phe/zambia

The 5-week course with a 21-day course service-learning trip to Zambia is generally offered by the Department of Public Health Education during the second summer session and places special emphasis on understanding the primary health care system, the multiple effects of HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria on families and households, and factors impacting maternal and child health, nutrition, and the elderly.

Previous editions:
- Vol 11, ed 4: December 2011
- Vol 11, ed 3: November 2011
- Vol 11, ed 2: October 2011
- Vol 11, ed 1: September 2011

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