The following article is sponsored by Southern Utah University.
Is 2016 your year to make a difference? Giving service has been proven to make you a happier, healthier and more positive individual. Decide to make a difference this year and provide needed assistance in your local community or abroad. Alternative breaks, service trips or volunteer tourism (whatever you decide to call it) is a popular trend with more than 1.6 million volunteers spending some $2 billion each year to serve others.
Hundreds of companies and non-profit organizations exist, offering people a chance to volunteer in established projects and humanitarian work. With so many avenues to choose from, now is the perfect time to take a selfless trip through which you can engage in active service, learn about social issues and have life-changing experiences.
Southern Utah University students are no strangers to alternative breaks. Giving up their ski trips to Colorado or beach vacations to Hawaii, students instead happily offer a lending hand to those in need. For more than a dozen years, SUU students have built homes, worked with underprivileged children, provided disaster cleanup, delivered humanitarian supplies, and staffed SUU’s most recent service trip included eight days to the Dominican Republic over Christmas break, as students in the Rural Health Scholars (RHS) program set up and staffed rural health clinics throughout the poverty-stricken country.
Working with Solid Rock International, a non-profit organization, the students established four clinics and distributed medical supplies including cough medication, nasal sprays, ibuprofen, eye drops, vitamins, and toothbrushes, while serving a total of 554 patients.
RHS Assistant Director Karen Ganss was the staff advisor on the trip and was “extremely proud of the SUU students’ ability to show care and empathy for the Dominican patients,” she said. Dominicans face a lack of clean drinking water, little knowledge of common health practices and the inability to pay to see a doctor. They also inhabit homes without electricity or running water, and suffer from poor diets. Due to these impediments, there is high demand for free health services for rural Dominican individuals.
Ganss said she was amazed that although the Dominicans have every reason to be angry and uninviting based on their inhospitable living environment, they are anything but that. “The common comment I gathered from students revolved around the true happiness and kindness of the Dominicans. I’ve never been around people who were so happy and grateful for the services we provided. They were unbelievably thankful and loving toward others,” she said.
“We showed them proper health care and gave them medications, but they gave us more than that. They renewed our sense of kindness, service and care toward other human beings,” Ganss said. “The Dominicans reignited my passion for human connection, talking face-to-face, helping a neighbor when in need, and listening to others.”
Pre-nursing student Chance Cooper said, “I have been given an opportunity that I will never fully be able to describe, but I do know that I want more. I am committed to serve in areas that have a high need for medial attention. That’s what I am meant to be doing.”
Cultural immersion trips expose students to medically underserved communities domestically and abroad. During these trips, students gain valuable health care experience, engage in patient exposure and develop language skills while also shadowing physicians.
The Rural Health Scholars program at Southern Utah University assists students in becoming successful applicants to medical, nursing, podiatry, dental, pharmacy, and other graduate-level and allied health professions programs. Student applications are strengthened through a regimen of classes, seminars, community service, job shadowing, research and advisement.
You may choose to provide service to others with a trip, or closer to home in your own community. Whatever you decide, adopting a service mindset will make you happier in 2016.