January 2016 Visit of VCU Nursing Students

Oftentimes hurdles to a woman’s education include more than just economic barriers, they also include limited time available for her studies due to family responsibilities. For example, cooking three meals a day for family of nine people over an open fire or a small, crumbling stove leaves little to no time for much else. Last week, a group came to initiate change through preventative health. A group of nursing students from the Nursing Students Without Borders chapter of Virginia Commonwealth University built fuel-efficient stoves in the community of Tizane in San Juan Ostuncalco, for three members of AMA who are currently training to be midwives. Not only are the smokeless stoves going to make their home environments cleaner and safer, but will also allow these midwifery students to devote more hours to their weekly classes, studies, and their quickly developing professions.

After two busy days of stove building, the VCU nursing students carried out AMA’s preventative medicine program for diabetes prevention by doing a diabetes screening, talking with the midwifery students about what diabetes is, and planned how the midwives can work to prevent diabetes in their communities with the resources they have available. Throughout the week both groups of budding healthcare providers shared information and taught one another, a beautiful and educative cultural exchange that we strive to achieve in our appropriate health programming model. The VCU students also learned how to make natural soap, participated in traditional bone setting demonstration, learned about Maya medicinal herbs for pain and injuries, and received a Maya postnatal massage in a “temescal”, or vapor room.

On the final day of the nursing student’s trip, they led a class and discussion on the menstrual cycle. They shared their knowledge of basic female anatomy, what normal cycles look like, when to see a doctor, and how to chart fertility throughout the course of a month. The midwifery students planned to share this information that they received with their own daughters, which is much more than they knew when they were young, to remove the fear and shame that many young women experience with their first periods.

We are all grateful to this incredible group of VCU students, staff, and Nurse Without Borders for their hard work, warmth, and participation in this beautiful cultural exchange of Western and Maya medical knowledge. We can’t wait to continue working together in the future!

Karen Mayorga