Over spring break, SRU staff and students traveled far and wide, and a small group of nine students passionate about health care went on an Alternative Break to Kilmarnock, Virginia to volunteer their time to make a difference. Alternative Breaks are a nation-wide movement encouraging college students to counter “traditional” spring break trips by turning them into a way to serve others.
The students who wanted to go on the trip signed up early in the year, and finally headed out the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic in Kilmarnock, Virginia last Friday. Northern Neck Frees’ mission is to fill critical health care gaps in the community. The clinic provides people who are underinsured or uninsured in the area free services including chronic and acute care, vaccinations, counseling, mammograms, patient education, and other services that may be unavailable to them otherwise.
“It is very difficult for some people to be able to receive health care because of cost or distance. Luckily for the people in Kilmarnock and the surrounding counties who do not have access to the healthcare they need, they have the option to receive their medical, dental and pharmaceutical needs at little to no cost at NNFHC,” Jenell Gerow, a sophomore biochemistry major who went on the trip shared.
Gerow enjoyed meeting people on the trip, whether it was patients or staff, who were all positive and thankful about the opportunity to provide and receive free healthcare.
The majority of volunteering was assisting with medical and dental audits, and filling out patient information and making excel spreadsheets for the clinic. A few students were able to shadow doctors and go to an outreach clinic to help with screening and prescriptions.
“I think more people should be educated about free health clinics, specifically what they are about and how they truly help people,” Gerow said. “People should also try to reach out to a free health clinic and volunteer their time if they can because the volunteers are primarily the reason they are able to survive.”
“The importance of community service and travel is that it opens your eyes to how other people and places are affected by things that we have access to in our everyday lives,” Gerow reflected. “I just think in general it is good to get outside of your comfort zone and take the opportunities to travel and take in the different cultures from the different parts of the world.”
Nikol Damato, a sophomore history major and Alternative Break ambassador who also attended the trip, got involved for her love of service-learning and to be able to reflect and gain a better understanding of social issues.
“The theme of the trip I co-led was Healthcare Access and Policy, so we traveled to NNFHC in coastal Virginia, centering the trip on our powerful question: Is healthcare a basic human right or a privilege for those who have the means?,” Damato said.
Damato learned how to articulate and respond to social issues, and learned more about her personal values.
“My favorite part was the human connection fostered both within our own group and with the community we served,” Damato said. “The best way to connect students with social issues is to directly engage with those we serve, and the clinic staff was so gracious and welcoming.” Damato wishes to bring what she learned back to her community and address these issues more.
The Alternative Break Program is currently transitioning into the Global Service-Learning Program. If you are interested in applying to lead an international program as an Experiential Learning Facilitator (ELF), please contact the Office for Community-Engaged Learning (OCEL). The application is due March 26, 2018. Applications for ELFs for the domestic programs will be available soon.