Belize_study_abroad_group-web.jpgContributors to this article are Emily Vaagene and Megan Knudsvig, two of the students who are participating in the Belize study abroad opportunity.

A group of Mayville State University students is counting the days before their travel to Punta Gorda, Belize. Nine students and one faculty member will study abroad in Belize May 14-28 as part of the “International Perspectives in Health” course offered through Mayville State University. The group will fully immerse in the culture and have the opportunity to live with local families. They’ll be exploring the country through a variety of cultural and adventure activities.

Students participating in the course come from various colleges and universities in North Dakota and Minnesota, all at different levels in their educational journey. With academic majors in nursing, medical laboratory science, and biology represented, the diverse group brings a large amount of knowledge, as well as bright, creative ideas to this experience. There has been a great deal of planning and teamwork needed in order to make this experience possible, but all are eager to now embark on the next phase of the journey: studying abroad.

The students have much to look forward to, but at the tops of their minds is the sharing of the health education projects they have created. They’ll be sharing them with the children and adults in the Toledo District. The topics of focus for the presentations include how to utilize composting, how to plant trees, the benefits of recycling, the negative effects of pollution, the benefits of organic rather than processed foods, and diabetic foot care, as well as high blood pressure and diabetes education.

In addition to providing health education, the students will provide a variety of health screenings and will provide community service by helping to build nurseries and greenhouses in a local village. They’ll also plant various fruits and vegetables.

A major challenge the group has overcome in order to make these activities possible relates to the need to gather medical and health education supplies that will be used during the Belize experience. The lack of essential supplies and limited access to health care in the remote areas of Belize create a tremendous need for the people living in the Toldeo District.

Through the generosity of many, the Mayville State group was able to gather all of the supplies that they’ll need to effectively provide their planning health screenings, health education projects, and community service, as well as to provide first aid as necessary.

“Along with International Perspective in Health, we extend our sincere thanks to a number of businesses and organizations for their generous donations,” said Tami Such, Mayville State University Nursing Program Director and faculty member who will accompany the students.

Donations have been provided by Luther Memorial Home, Mayville, N.D.; Neumann Drug, Cando, N.D.; Ramsey Drug, Devils Lake, N.D.; White Drug, Devils Lake, N.D.; True Bliss Salon, Devils Lake, N.D.; Performance in Hair, Devils Lake, N.D.; Lake Region State College, Devils Lake, N.D.; Trenton Indian Services Area Clinic, Trenton, N.D.; Worland McDonalds, Worland, Wyoming; Thrivent Financial, Minneapolis, Minn.; Mayville State University Athletic Training, Mayville, N.D.; Altru Health Systems, Grand Forks, N.D.; and Hope Church, Fargo, N.D.

Some individuals have also shared their expertise with the group, so that they may in turn, use this knowledge to help the people of Belize.

Dr. David Franzen from the NDSU Office of Extension provided a lecture on soil quality and the positive impact composting can have on the growing conditions in the country of Belize. Gen Kernan, R.N. and former diabetes educator gave an insightful presentation regarding identification, management, and prevention of complications while living with diabetes. Dr. Mike Rexine from Eyes on Broadway in Fargo, N.D. and Mayville provided guidance on the process of checking visual acuity using Snellen charts and other evidence-based tips for vision screening.

“We are grateful to these experts for helping us to learn many new things that will give us the opportunity to help others,” said Belize study abroad participant Emily Vaagene.

“It’s very exciting to now have the opportunity to apply the knowledge that we have gained as we have prepared for our study abroad experience in Belize,” said Megan Knudsvig, another student who will travel to Belize. “We look forward to sharing our knowledge through health education, health screenings, and by lending a hand across the Toledo District in Belize.”

Photo caption: Pictured in the front (l-r) are Megan Knudsvig, Emily Vaagene, Taylor Maya, Brittney Slater, and Kortney Petermann. In the back are Eric Leedahl, Jocelyn Klein, Kyle O’Brien, and Tami Such. Student Jordan Burgau is not pictured.