Waking up before the crack of dawn. Driving more than an hour over bumpy, unpaved roads. Working in a remote location on the side of a mountain.
For 11 Franklin & Marshall College students, it was called spring break. And they would not have had it any other way.
The students traveled to Honduras March 11-17 for an “alternative” spring break organized by F&M’s Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. The group traveled south in partnership with Central American Relief Efforts (CARE), which mobilizes volunteers in the United States to benefit populations in extreme poverty in Central America. Director of Health and Wellness Education Jan Masland and Ryan McGonigle, special assistant for education outreach and athletics planning, led the health-related trip for students interested in medicine, public health and service to others.
The F&M students ran dental and medical clinics, provided medication to residents, and attended rounds with Honduran physicians in hospitals. In many cases, the clinics were flooded by local residents who traveled more than three hours to get medical attention they otherwise would not receive.
“I was truly impressed by the enthusiasm and empathy displayed by F&M students on the trip,” McGonigle said. “I’ll always remember the leadership and teamwork among a group of students who had never before worked together.”
Many of the F&M students are majoring in health-related fields. For Bethany Vincent ’14, the trip served as inspiration to rethink her academic major. The sophomore had planned to major in the biology track of the College’s public health program but switched to the government track of the program.
“It was a revelation for me,” Vincent said. “I want to run medical mission trips in the future.”
One highlight of the trip, McGonigle said, was the medical clinic the students ran in the town of Choluteca. It was the largest mobile medical clinic that CARE has ever conducted, providing assistance to 350 people.
Vincent will remember one moment from the trip for its emotional impact.
“We ran a clinic out of a man’s house,” Vincent said. “At the end of the day, the man’s emotion and appreciation were incredible. He had tears in his eyes. Some people who visited the clinic had never seen a toothbrush or heard of Tylenol. To see that grown man break down really impacted me. I knew I was doing it for the right reasons.”
Other F&M students who traveled to Honduras were Emily Dlugi ’14, Michael Haines ’14, Laura Heller ’13, Will Kiefer ’14, Hannah Mead ’14, Caitlin Nallo ’12, Veronica Ortiz ’15, Sara Shusterman ’13, Chloe Singer ’14 and Kevin Wojcik ’12.