Category Archives: Nicaragua

Hayes’ helping hand

By Monica Grice

Overwhelmed. This is how Maria Hayes felt walking through the rain forest of Nicaragua.

It’s day three of the Texas State University nursing student’s trip, and they set out to complete census’ of a rural community located in the rain forest.

“Many of us went into this experience being very timid and unsure of what we have learned up to this point,” said nursing student Logan Smith. “However, once we got accustomed to conducting assessments and communicating with patients, the uncertainty melted away and confidence was built.”

Confidence is something Hayes exuberated without fault while abroad. Her adaptation to the Nicaraguan culture communicated her will to help people, and her love of nursing.

Next Stop Nicaragua

The Denison, Texas, native fell in love with healthcare when she was a student in high school.

Hayes spent 12 hours a day for a week shadowing doctors and nurses at her local hospital and experienced everything from surgeries to deliveries, which made her want to be a nurse midwife.

“The first delivery I saw, I cried; it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” said Hayes. “That’s the moment I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”

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Hayes on day two in Nicaragua. Photo by Monica Grice.

Hayes went to Nicaragua with her nursing school colleagues in January hoping to see what it was like to practice global health as a travel nurse, and to brush up on her Spanish.

Hayes originally enrolled at Texas State University in San Marcos as an engineering major.

“I wasn’t really connected to that; I knew I would get a job and went with it for that reason,” said Hayes.

After talking with her father, she ended her engineering major and pursued a nursing career.

Clinic Days

While in Nicaragua, the College of Health Professions students split into three groups and spent four days in three communities.

On the first day in the community, the teams were guided through the villages to interview community members and take a health census. The census would give them a better understanding of what illnesses were in the community, and how to prepare for them when clinic days arrived.

Hayes saw patients at a clinic located deep in the rainforest of Ticuantepe, Nicaragua.

“She just jumped right into whatever challenge was set before her,” said fellow nursing student Jessica Yehl. “She communicated well, assessed her patients with all the skill of an actual nurse, and was so prepared to help the team in whatever way she could.”

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Hayes during day two of clinics. Photo by Monica Grice.

Hayes remembered meeting a young woman in her 20’s on the day they collected census. The woman was emotional because she had a lump in her breast that she believed to be cancerous. Since the team didn’t have any medical supplies on them that day, Hayes urged the woman to come to the clinic. She came on the first day, but became nervous and left, leaving Hayes worried for her health.

Day five was frustrating for Hayes. The woman still hadn’t shown, and another patient’s blood pressure was dangerously high. Hayes and other healthcare students urged the woman to go to the hospital, but never found out if she did. It left Hayes feeling like she wanted to do more, but she couldn’t.

“I think her ability to be realistic sets her apart,” said Yehl. “A lot of nurses can be tempted to sugar coat hard situations, but she just gives it straight.”

On the third, and last day of clinics, Hayes felt rewarded.

“I feel really proud of the team and how much work we accomplished,” said Hayes.

The Woman From The Rainforest

After the last day of clinics, the Texas State group returned to one of the clinics for a day of giving back. Games, balloons, and a piñata were brought for the children and triage stations were set up outside of the church for any remaining community members who hadn’t been assessed.

Hayes’ clinic was chosen.

The woman from the rainforest was there. Hayes helped assess her and found out the lump was mastitis.

“I’ve been worried all week,” said Hayes.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast most common during the first six months of breastfeeding. Although painful, it’s not serious and can be remedied easily.

The emotion Hayes expressed was pure joy. She got the reassurance she had been waiting days for. Her worries were alleviated.

“That was really good, it was so relieving,” said Hayes. “I told her ‘I was ready to climb back up the mountain and find you,’ she thought that was really funny.”

She made a warm compress for the woman and explained how to continue treating the inflammation.

Hayes recalls this day as being the best part of the trip.

Returning Home

“I feel like I don’t need to be home,” said Hayes.

After the clinics, the team had a few recreational days and went to the nursing home in Masaya.

The nursing home was a unique experience for Hayes. As a career, she loves working with children. She seemed a bit hesitant, the whole team did. However, she molded quickly to the environment and left happy.

“She was able to adapt to the different culture and conditions of Nicaragua and perform confident and competent assessments on patients,” said Smith.

The day before the team’s departure, Hayes didn’t want to leave.

“It’s a bitter feeling to leave,” she said. “I wish we could have a few extra days.”

The soon-to-be midwife gained a deeper knowledge of the people and the country during the trip. Fellow nursing students, Smith and Yehl, admired how Hayes was able to jump into any situation and tackle it.

In the 11 days the Texas State team was in Nicaragua, Hayes explored what it’s like to be a travel nurse and practice global health: she thinks she can do it.

“I definitely loved it and I definitely think I could see myself doing it long term,” she said.

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Hayes with a village girl. Photo by Monica Grice.

Meet the respiratory therapy students that became the educators

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By: Taeler Kallmerten

Bubbly, free-spirited and stubborn are three words to describe the women of the respiratory therapy team from Texas State University.

Two respiratory therapy students, accompanied by their faculty, were a part of Texas State University’s first inter-professional study abroad program in Nicaragua.

Initially, the respiratory therapy team was not going, but clinical assistant professor Sharon Armstead and her two senior students Veronica Richardson and Amber Hazelett readily accepted the invitation from the trip’s lead faculty member, Marylyn Kajs-Wyllie. 

There are few countries that have a specialized role for respiratory care and Nicaragua is not one of them. Like the majority of the world, Nicaragua’s respiratory care is practiced by standard physicians and nurses.

This was a challenge for Armstead, Richardson and Hazelett. Instead of spending most of their time in the community clinics, Armstead and her team focused on giving seminars about respiratory care in local public hospitals.

As Armstead set up her MacBook to give a seminar, 12 nurses wearing white uniforms sat watching intently. The seminar took place in the cafeteria of the hospital and many employees passing by joined the lecture as they ate their breakfast. Richardson and Hazelett passed out brochures amongst the nurses, so they could follow along in the demonstration.

“I love to educate as I go,” said Armstead. “Not only do we learn from the community, but they learn from what we offer in education.” 

Through one seminar Armstead said she completely changed the way one hospital gave a nebulizer treatment.

“They were giving the nebulizer treatment without a mask or a mouth piece and the neb was just going out into the air,” said Armstead. “Until we showed them the proper way to use a nebulizer, they did not know.”

After educating healthcare providers in the hospital for two days, Armstead said it is important to recognize the hospitals are not wrong in their methods of respiratory care, but they are just different. 

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Infographic of respiratory issues in Nicaragua. Graphic by Monica Grice.  

The work is personal

The irony of the respiratory therapy team is that all three women have asthma themselves.

Hazelett, a respiratory therapy major, said her asthma gives her the ability to empathize with her patients because she knows their pain firsthand.

“Growing up sometimes people would tell me, ‘there’s not actually something wrong with you,’ or ‘no, you can breathe just relax,’” said Hazelett. “I know that these people really cannot breathe.”

Hazelett said she understands that those who do not have asthma sometimes think asthmatics are making up their medical condition.

“Just because it can’t be seen on the outside doesn’t mean it’s not going on on the inside,” she said.

The first day outside of the hotel in Nicaragua required long hikes to get from home to home and Richardson constantly checked on Armstead’s breathing and reminded her to use her inhaler.

The family dynamic of taking care of each other was the anchor that held the respiratory therapy team together.

Richardson said having Armstead as a professor has made her more confident in her abilities as a respiratory therapist.

Richardson said she had an intense discussion with a doctor in Nicaragua about whether a patient’s lung problems were asthma related.

“I did a full chest assessment and I was right that there was something wrong with the patient’s lungs,” said Richardson. “In my mind, there was that split moment where I thought what if I’m wrong; then my confidence came back and I was like I know I’m right.”

As Richardson explained how Armstead’s teaching has impacted her, Armstead, who was sitting next to her, began crying, but with a smile on her face.

“I wanted them to see that in these countries, they don’t have RT, but what we can do is to promote our profession and to educate,” said Armstead.

Richardson and Hazelett will graduate in May. While Richardson has just finished her internship in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. David’s North, Hazelett has begun her night shifts at her internship. Richardson plans to eventually practice respiratory therapy abroad and Hazelett plans to get her masters degree and eventually teach at her alma mater, Texas State University. 

Journalism in the Jungle

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By: Taeler Kallmerten

In January 2017, five students were chosen from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University by journalism professor, Holly Wise, to take part in the Global News Team’s second trip to Nicaragua.

The Global News Team is a study abroad program created in 2015 that embeds mass communication students with international service learning teams.

This year’s Global News Team embedded with 28 students and faculty from the College of Health Professions on their service learning trip to Nicaragua where they assessed and treated patients in rural villages.

The 2017 inter-professional teams consisted of three medical professions –  nursing, respiratory therapy and clinical laboratory science.

Preparation

“Flying in the first thing I noticed was the terrain. It was so mountainous and I could see numerous volcanos from the plane.” – From the daily reflections of Global News Team contributor, Taeler Kallmerten (TK)

Prior to their January departure, the Global News Team met three times in November and December to brainstorm story ideas and their travel itinerary.

Exsar Arguello, a senior journalism, said he researched the country’s health care and culture before leaving.

“I think it’s good to have a general understanding of the place you’re going to, but as an industry where everything changes so fast you live by experience,” he said.

Websites like Reporters Without Borders and World Health Organization provided the team with a better understanding of Nicaragua.

According to RWB, Nicaragua’s constitution allows the government to censor and restrain the press. The country is ranked 75th among 180 nations in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index. In comparison, the United States is ranked 45th and Nicaragua’s neighbor Costa Rica is ranked number six.

Two flights and a school bus ride later the team arrived at Hotel El Raizon on Jan. 2. The Global News Team assembled and began preparation for the busy on-site days.

On-Site

“I overheard that Ivan, our translator, telling Jessica that in order to keep his English skills up for translating he watches Judge Judy and the People’s Court.”    -TK

The first day outside of the hotel, the teams were split into groups and sent off in different directions in the rural communities of Nicaragua.

The goal of the health professions team that day was to log information about the living conditions of the community members in the area. The health teams asked community members questions about their health while the Global News Team took notes and began looking for potential story subjects.

Monica Grice, a journalism major, said she didn’t really know where to start.

“I started taking pictures and videos not really knowing what to capture,” said Grice.  “Eventually you just kind of mold yourself into the environment and then you know what to look for as far as documenting goes.”

For the majority of the first day, the Global News Team was busy observing people, places and things.

Darcy Sprague, a journalism major, said she focused her attention on Jennifer Pemp and Andrew Pagel, a nursing student and clinical lab science student she noticed on the plane.

“I was really just observing them and taking notes about what they were doing,” said Sprague. “I didn’t ask them any questions, but for the rest of my stories I was just trying to be present in the moment and decide what would be possible.”

The Global News Team members split up into three groups and traveled with the health professions students to report on their work.

Sprague said the timing of the work amongst the health professions teams and the Global News Team was the most difficult part about producing the stories.

“It seemed like when they were working, we were off and when they were off we were working,” said Sprague. “It was also constant work even when you were sitting around you would see the person you wanted to interview and you would be thinking about questions.”

Despite the time spent observing and staying in the background, the Global News Team interacted with community members and helped the health professionals whenever possible.

When the teams traveled to a nursing home in Nicaragua, only one Global News Team member planned to create a multimedia project. The four remaining students washed dishes, sorted through moldy fruit and helped residents into their rooms.

Team Dynamic

“We walked into our room and turned on the lights and boom scorpion on the floor. Darcy screamed, I ran out of the room, but Monica flipped out. She screamed not knowing exactly what she was screaming at but that we were screaming and she should too. It was the greatest thing I experienced in Nicaragua.” -TK

The time spent working together bonded the group and at the end of long days the Global News Team would stay up and talk about their day amongst each other before having to wake up at sunrise and do it all over again.

Ally Fluker, a digital media innovation student, said it was this time together that bonded the Global News Team.

“That kind of environment strengthened our ability to work together and it wasn’t weird and there wasn’t any hostility toward each other,” said Fluker.

Fluker said the time constraint made the trip intense and immersive.

“This showed us what it’s like to be a real life journalist to get in what you need when you need it in a time constraint,” said Fluker. “Whereas if you’re on campus for a whole semester you have more time and you have a professor spoon feeding you. We were there and Holly was like ‘OK, go.’”

Overall the Global News Team produced over 30 pieces of multimedia content and written stories and were co-recipients of the Texas State University Quarterly Team Award.

 

 

 

Clinical laboratory Science in Nicaragua, an opportunity to educate for the future

When Clinical Assistant Professor and Clinical Coordinator, Joanna Ellis heard about the opportunity to take some of her clinical laboratory science (CLS) students to Nicaragua, she seized it as a chance to work in uncharted territory.

And when she presented the idea to her chair, Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, associate dean for research and a professor in the Texas State  CLS Program, he knew it could help students prepare for their future in healthcare.

After more than a year of preparation, the CLS program embarked on an unprecedented journey to Nicaragua in January where four seniors became the first clinical laboratory science students in the nation to work with patients and observe laboratory practices abroad.

The students – Ashley Wells, Jennifer Pemp, Idahlia Bland and Ashleigh Graham – spent 13 days with 19 nursing students, two respiratory care students and five mass communication students as part of the university’s first inter-professional service learning study abroad program in Nicaragua.

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The CLS students observe at the hospital in Masaya, Nicaragua

“Our students experienced what made this trip so important for their future in healthcare,” Rohde said. “They were immersed in a different culture where they learned and interacted. This trip really set the bar high for other universities not only in Texas but around the nation.”

Rohde said one of the program’s goals was to create an atmosphere where the health profession students interacted with each other and other healthcare professionals.

“As the first group to be granted access to clinical labs in Nicaragua we were given the unique opportunity to see how laboratory professionals in a developing country determine the critical tests to implement with little funding and how they maximize their resources,” Ellis said.

Ellis said she will attend different conferences and meetings to help spread the knowledge about how labs run in Nicaragua in comparison to the United States.

“The students had the opportunity to observe testing techniques, parasites, and specimen containers they would not see in their clinical rotations in the United States,” Ellis said.  “Baby jars for urine and matchboxes for stool, for example. It was an amazing experience that I look forward to sharing with colleagues at a conference this March.”

In Nicaragua, the public hospitals have limited resources as government funding in 2007 was $211 million by the Ministry of Health, according to the most recent statistics available.  Of the total budget, 79 percent came from public revenue, but 67 percent came from the treasury which means that the government is the primary source of health spending, not taxation of the people.

For the public hospitals, this lack of funding leaves the staff to reuse hospital equipment—a practice that would be seen as taboo in the United States.

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Walking through the hospital in Masaya, Nicaragua

“The difference in lab equipment is night and day compared to the United States,” Ellis said. “In the first hospital we visited, the staff was doing all their testing by hand. All the chemistry was done manually, predating lab methods in the United States by 40 years.”

Ellis said these manual methods leaves room for human error which can lead to results that are not 100 percent accurate. The lack of equipment and funding also left the staff to reuse microscope slides, tubes and even gloves.

“Here in the United States, when a slide touches the floor, you just throw it away and get a new one—when your gloves are dirty, you simply change them out, but here, they don’t have that luxury,” said Idahlia Bland, a clinical laboratory senior student. “It blew my mind that they were reusing equipment that way. In the States that would be absolutely unfathomable to healthcare professionals.”

When slides are reused, bacteria can contaminate the slide, giving results that may not be representative of what the patient actually has, Bland said. The clinical lab scientists in Nicaragua have learned from working in these conditions how to tell if a faulty reading is coming from a contaminated slide.

The trip provided a fast-paced learning experience. During the clinical days in the villages, the students helped local residents with urinalysis and glucose testing. They also spent a lot of time working in local hospitals and clinics.

“We walked around the hospital at first to get a feel for the atmosphere,” Bland said. “The hospital was very crowded, and in some rooms, there were up to two pregnant women per hospital bed. The conditions were not up to par with what we have back home, and hospital beds were out in hallways sometimes with patients because of the capacity.”

During the hospital visit in Masaya, clinical laboratory science student Jennifer Pemp had the opportunity to draw blood from three different patients. During her blood draws, she used methods that the doctors used in Nicaragua, not how she was taught back in the United States.

“They leave the tourniquet on the patient’s arm while they draw blood, and in the States we are taught not to do that because it can allow for false readings,” Pemp said.

Leaving the tourniquet on during blood draw does cause hemoconcentration that leads to an increase in some blood tests like potassium, glucose, and cholesterol, she said.

When Pemp was drawing blood from her first patient, the staff at the hospital stopped her and told her to proceed with the method that was used in Nicaragua instead of what she was taught to do in the United States.

“We’re not here to teach them how to do their job, especially since this is the first time lab has gotten the opportunity to do this, so I proceeded to draw blood the way they wanted me to,” Pemp said. “It felt unnatural for me, but I was humbled by the opportunity to work with them, and all these lessons I learned I will take back with me forever.”

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Pemp preparing to draw blood from a patient at the hospital

For the future, the CLS program will look into attending another program abroad. The success in Nicaragua will be the first of many for the program, Ellis said.

On March 31, Ellis will attend a conference in Allen, Texas hosted by the Texas Association for Clinical Laboratory Science where professionals across the state meet to discuss the future of CLS. A keynote speaker and past president of TACLS, Ellis will present on the logistics, impact and importance of the trip. The keynote will help other programs in the state who are looking to venture into CLS study abroad opportunities.

 

To see a visual comparison of how laboratory practice differentiates in Nicaragua and the United States, click the PDF file below.

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College of Health Professions at Texas State University first Inter-Professional Study Abroad Program

By: Allison Fluker

The first inter-professional study abroad team from the College of Health Professions traveled to Nicaragua in January to provide healthcare in rural villages.

The 34-member team consisted of students and faculty from the nursing, clinical lab science and respiratory care programs, along with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Global News Team.

The health professions students, in partnership with International Service Learning, hosted three days of free medical clinics in local villages near Masaya, Nicaragua. An average of 45 patients were seen each day at the clinics; in addition, the students cared for elderly residents in a local nursing home.

Marylyn Kajs-Wyllie, a professor in the St. David’s School of Nursing, went to Nicaragua with the 2016 study abroad program which was joined by a group of mass communication students.

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Marylyn Kajs-Wyllie giving a demonstration at a seminar at a local hospital near Masaya, Nicaragua.

 

“Since there was a mass communication team tagging along with the nursing students, there was an idea to push for an inter-professional team,” said Kajs-Wyllie.

At the time, the College of Health Professions was pushing for collaboration between its programs. An inter-professional experience abroad would provide students with a community in a work environment.

But first, Kajs-Wyllie needed to find faculty members and their students who would agree to join her on the 2017 trip. She contacted Gregg Marshall, the chair of respiratory care at Texas State University, who put her in touch with other faculty, such as Sharon Armstead, a clinical assistant professor in the respiratory care department.

“Marylyn reached out to me via email to ask if I was interested in joining nursing on the trip,” said Armstead.

During a College of Health Professions graduation ceremony, Kajs-Wyllie asked Armstead to go on the trip and Armstead agreed.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for the therapists to go,” said Armstead.

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Sharon Armstead giving a demonstration at a seminar at a local hospital near Masaya, Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, a clinical assistant professor in the clinical lab science program contacted the chair of the nursing school to see if there were opportunities for her students to work with other professions.

“I serve on the inter-professional education committee and the study abroad committee,” said Joanna Ellis. “I wanted (the clinical lab science students) to have respect for the other roles. If we learn from each other and health care together, we will impact healthcare results in the future.”

With the addition of Ellis and Armstead and the mass communication students, Kajs-Wyllie assembled her 34-member team.

Expectations and Worries

The first inter-professional health professions study abroad team came with a lot of pressure and expectations.

“I wanted the nursing students to learn focused assessments, the culture, Spanish, to appreciate the differences in nursing and the differences between what we’re used to with what they have,” said Kajs-Wyllie.

Students from the nursing school practiced focused assessments during the medical clinics in rural villages.

“It gives you a lot of confidence,” said Desiree Davis, a senior in the nursing program. “Once you start asking questions, you learn what other questions you need to ask about the information for the problem the patient is having.”

Every faculty member on the team had their own expectations for the trip, as well as expectations for the entire group.

“I wanted (the clinical lab sciences students) to get a mutual respect,” said Ellis. “If we were able to go to the labs at the hospitals, we could talk about the labs in the group debriefings and show (the other departments) that we are taught a very different skill. We have a lot to offer and wanted to show them that.”

 

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Joanna Ellis enjoying a recreation day on a beach in Nicaragua.

 

In Nicaragua, healthcare specialties such as clinical lab science or respiratory care, do not exist like they do in the United States.

“They don’t have us as a profession where we were going,” said Armstead.

Without resources for the level of education required to provide specialty care in Nicaragua, there are not many doctors who can provide the care that Armstead, Ellis and their students gave.

While some professors worried about limitations in their ability to apply their knowledge and skills, others worried about how their presence would effect the lives of the residents in the communities they visited.

“I was worried about our impact on the culture and the community here whether it would be positive or not,” said Ellis. “I was worried about the emotions that would ensue during the home visits and the nursing home.”

After seeing how well the 2017 team of students worked together, the faculty members recognized many benefits of having an inter-professional team.

Students utilized their acquired skills and applied them to caring for patients. That strengthened their ability to provide healthcare and perform focused assessments. By working with other health disciplines, the students understood what the other health professional’s job entails.

“They will communicate better and have an understanding of what the nursing students have gone through,” said Ellis. “They will have a reference for what the other professionals have gone through.”

Gaining an understanding of what other healthcare professionals go through in their daily routine is paramount to making a better workplace environment.

“I had that moment where I knew I was making a difference in someone’s life,” said Davis. “You’re able to sit down with the doctor and tell them what’s going on with the patient and give your own assessment. You start to see the same illnesses and know the right questions.”

After hands-on experience and interacting with local physicians, the students were no longer timid about performing the healthcare skills needed to provide care.

“(Students) said that their confidence levels jumped,” said Armstead. “They feel comfortable approaching physicians. What we try to teach them, they already feel empowered to do it.”

Students were immersed into a new culture and learned differences in the healthcare between the United States and Nicaragua.

“It has prepared them for a multicultural world and encouraged them to give back or take part in a study abroad,” said Armstead. “Learning to learn Spanish will help better the care we can give them.”

Adjusting to a new environment didn’t keep the inter-professional students from accomplishing what their faculty wanted for them.

“I thought it was cute to see everyone working together,” said Armstead. “There was one time when a group of (clinical lab science) students sat together and I mentioned they weren’t mingling, but by the end of the week, you couldn’t tell who was in what department.”

 

 

International Service Learning: Connecting communities through service

By: Monica Grice

In a small church 20 minutes outside of Masaya, Nicaragua, Lucia Rodriguez distributes medicine to members of a rural community deep in the rainforest, her face friendly and smiling at every person.

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Lucia Rodriguez, 16, is a translator for International Service Learning and recently worked with the Texas State University health professions team in Nicaragua.

This is Rodriguez’s second year working with International Service Learning and her role in January 2017 is an assistant team leader.

The nonprofit organization has been leading volunteer teams in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Africa since 1994. ISL assists more than 215,000 people every year and donates $180,000 in medical supplies.

“I saw how they work and how they help people, and that was a goal for me,” said Rodriguez. “You learn about culture; you learn about everything.”

ISL’s workforce is diverse. Ages, jobs, backgrounds and cultures provide a variety of differences in ISL’s team members which helps to provide perspectives and knowledge for the volunteers they lead.

Though Rodriguez is just 16 years old, she already knows what she wants in life and that working with ISL will help her achieve her goals.

Rodriguez, a senior in high school, was born in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and moved to the capitol of Managua eight years ago with her mother, two younger siblings and two aunts.

For people in her hometown of Jinotega, Rodriguez said most of their careers center around helping people. She is no exception.

“Most people want to work in medicine, agriculture, or with animals,” said Rodriguez. “But I want to do something interesting, not like a typical career.”

She got her start in ISL through her uncle, Pavel Guevara, the country coordinator for ISL in Nicaragua.

In the beginning, it was hard for Rodriguez because she was not fluent in English. Motivated by her goal to do something special for her country, Rodriguez learned enough English in two years to become a translator and assistant team leader for ISL.

“I just keep practicing and practicing; I’m determined,” she said.

ISL is the only non-governmental organization allowed by the government of Nicaragua to manage experiences for healthcare students from the U.S. ISL provides faculty and students with comprehensive logistical services from deciding the clinics they’ll serve to the restaurants they eat dinner at.

ISL chooses different communities for the Texas State students to serve each year.

“We don’t want to go just one direction – we want to bless everybody, not just one place,” said Harold Mojica, an ISL team leader.

The ISL team leaders deliver medical censuses taken in the communities to the health administration in Nicaragua and take inventory on medicine needed.

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Harold Mojica is a team leader for International Service Learning and recently worked with the Texas State University health professions team in Nicaragua.

A father of two girls aged 18 months and 10 years old, Mojica is a licensed tour guide that has worked with ISL for four years, and with other organizations for almost 12.

“You are not only helping in the clinics for a day or two, but you’re leaving a foundation for future actions in the community,” said Mojica.

He was born and raised in Casares, Nicaragua, a fishing community. He still lives there with his wife of 15 years, who is also a licensed tour guide and two daughters.

“I have had the opportunity to work with different institutions and different people and I always got committed to do my best and put my community first,” said Mojica. “So I love when I have the chance to bring a team to my community.”

Casares didn’t have a high school for Mojica to continue his education and his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor was a long shot away.

“As a consequence I couldn’t carry out my studies, and didn’t go back to school for eight years after elementary,” said Mojica.

At 12 years old he became a fisherman. After earning enough money for a round-trip ticket to the nearest school, Mojica attended Saturday school for five years to finish high school. Then in five more years, he finished his university studies.

When he was 20, he started working for a hotel that gave him the opportunity to be a translator for guests. This is where he gained the experience that would help him work with ISL.

Five years ago, the president of ISL came to Mojica’s hometown looking for properties to buy. After having a conversation, he offered Mojica a job with the organization.

“I love serving and I love helping other people, and I loved the idea,” said Mojica.

Three months later he took a job as a translator. Mojica would later be promoted to assistant team leader and eventually team leader.

Though his dream to become a doctor wasn’t realized, Mojica is still involved with medicine. He has worked with a team of surgeons from Sacramento, California sometimes being right in the operating room.

“I’m right there between the surgeon and the scrub nurse, doing ACL’s, or open heart surgeries,” said Mojica.

He recalls one moment working with an eye doctor that had a few elderly patients who couldn’t see enough to mend their clothes or even pick the rocks out of their beans before cooking. A simple pair of reading glasses would change everything for these patients and some of them would cry of happiness.

“The most rewarding moment for me is when I work with doctors,” said Mojica. “They will hit the nail on the head with a diagnosis, and you can see how happy people are.”

Desiree Davis, a senior nursing student from Texas State, worked closely with Mojica during the university’s recent inter-professional study abroad trip in Nicaragua.

“He was so much fun to be around and the joy he had never went unnoticed and he always had a joke to tell and for a lot of us that really was appreciated especially on days that were so tiring,” said Desiree Davis.

She said one day she became sick at the clinic and Mojica immediately noticed a change in her character. It was this day that Davis and Mojica spent time talking about both of their cultures and backgrounds. She realized the two were very similar.

“It was also that day that I realized I had just gained a friend,” said Davis.

For more information about ISL and volunteer opportunities, visit their website.