Concordia University Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) students had the opportunity to travel abroad for a transformational global learning experience in Kenya, Africa this past summer.
A number of Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) students had the opportunity to travel to Kenya alongside their professor, Dr. Julie Parve, and her non-profit organization Hope Without Borders. This trip not only led to a once-in-a-lifetime global learning opportunity, but also a transformational medical missions experience.
Meet the three students and learn about their experiences first hand.
Meet Lindsey Green.
Lindsey is enrolled in the MSN FNP program and will be graduating in May 2023. She attended Marquette University for her undergraduate BSN degree and graduated in 2017. Her sister, Lauren Carls, attended CUW for her undergraduate degree in nursing. Since she received an incredible education, Lindsey also decided to attend CUW for her master’s degree. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The faculty and my classmates are unmatched at CUW.”
Meet Lauren Carls.
Lauren will be graduating from the MSN FNP program in May 2023. She also graduated with her undergraduate degree at Concordia University Wisconsin in 2018 and felt like she wanted to continue her education through Concordia because it felt like returning home.
Meet Mindy Cole.
Mindy has been working as a registered nurse for over 10 years and is currently in her last year of the MSN FNP program. She completed her undergraduate degree through Concordia and recalled hearing about the global learning opportunities, so decided to pursue her master’s through CUW as well.
What are the top three things that you will always remember from your trip to Kenya?
Lindsey Green: The Kenyan people are so incredibly welcoming and friendly, which was heartwarming as I had never traveled to Africa before. This was my first experience completing a medical mission trip. We were given the opportunity to visit a grade school in Mukuru, an informal settlement in Kenya, and the children welcomed us with songs, smiles, and laughter. That is a moment that I will never forget.
Secondly, while in Mukuru, we screened people of all ages for reading glasses. The joy that I saw on peoples’ faces when they could finally read clearly brought tears to my eyes. Something so simple made such a huge impact on their lives.
Lastly, we went on a two-day safari in Voi, Kenya. The landscapes of Tsavo East National Park, along with the countless animals seen, such as elephants, zebras, and giraffes, were breathtaking and an experience that I will hold in my heart and mind forever.
How did you feel God was leading you on this trip?
Lindsey Green: I believe that God was leading me throughout the trip by allowing us to care for children and adults. Whether it was holding and playing with the children at the orphanage, listening to women at an HIV support group share their stories of hope, or completing a home health visit in Mukuru, all those opportunities were presented to us by God. He blessed us with the ability to care for others in Kenya.
Lauren Carls: God led me to meet some amazing and inspiring Kenyans. Many of these individuals expressed hope and I will cherish those moments. I kept thinking of 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I could see faith, hope, and love in Kenya.
Mindy Cole: I feel blessed to have been able to make this journey across the globe and to help others. I feel fortunate enough to have learned skills through my programs at Concordia to allow me to serve others in need.
How did Concordia prepare you for this trip?
Lindsey Green: Concordia prepared me for this trip through building me up as a nurse, soon-to-be nurse practitioner, and Christian. Not only have they provided me with an exceptional education thus far, but they have also allowed me to grow in my faith with God. Concordia builds up their students into leaders, both in and out of healthcare.
Lauren Carls: When we visited the hospital in Voi, I was able to discuss with the medical officer the patients’ diagnoses and treatment plan. Concordia’s courses have helped me gain more confidence in patient care with each semester. Dr. Parve did an amazing job introducing us to Kenyan culture and preparing us for the informal settlement, Mukuru. Each team member could see how passionate Dr. Parve and Lance Parve are about Hope Without Borders.
What aspects of this global learning experience were difficult and how did you rely on your team to help you overcome those difficulties?
Lindsey Green: The most difficult aspect of this trip was observing how poverty affects people. Seeing large families live in small metal huts, figuring out what the next meal will be, all while potentially battling health concerns, are just some of the challenges that people face in Kenya. One image will forever be engrained in my memory: while driving into Mukuru, I saw a herd of cattle grazing in piles of garbage on the side of the road, no blade of grass in sight. Each day my classmates and I were able to reflect on our day together, which allowed us to help process our thoughts and feelings. We truly were a team throughout the whole trip- we laughed and cried together.
Mindy Cole: Performing home visits in the informal settlements and seeing the kids in the school and orphanage with such little resources was very difficult. We had opportunities to debrief both before and after these experiences which helped. We were able to reflect on current practices and how we could help them create sustainable projects moving forward.
Many of us did not know each other prior to going on the trip. We all bonded as a team quickly. We were like a big family in Kenya and helped each other (in sickness and health).
How will you use this experience to make future decisions in your life/career?
Lauren Carls: This experience has made me aware of how kindness and compassion can significantly impact a community. We met multiple board members of Hope Without Borders and each of their stories were inspiring. Resources are very limited in Kenya, but perseverance and kindness has caused a ripple effect in communities like Mukuru. I look forward to becoming a nurse practitioner and continuing to help multiple communities, locally and worldwide.
Mindy Cole: Going to this trip has helped me both professionally and personally. I feel this program provided experiences that will improve my future as a nurse practitioner. I have learned the value of having patience and taking the whole patient (and cultural preferences) into consideration when figuring out a treatment plan. We had very little resources to diagnose and treat our patients so our assessment had to be very precise. This trip also reminded me that it is OK to take chances if there is opportunities to learn and grow.
What was your favorite day/event on your trip?
Mindy Cole: My favorite part of the trip was the informal settlement of Mukuru. This experience shed light on the culture of Kenya. We got to meet with children at a local school and church. We provided medications, performed eye exams and fit adults for glasses, fitted children for shoes and created water purifiers for families. We also got to hand out red elephant and blue lion kits which are self hygiene kits for boys and girls. These kids will now allow the boys and girls to continue going to school. Our visit to Mukuru provided perspective on poverty and demonstrated the reality of limited access to basic resources. We were able to meet influential people in Mukuru who have created sustainable projects to better the community. It was overwhelming to experience the amount of hope that surrounded everyone and the sense of community felt throughout our trip.
Lauren Carls: My favorite day of the trip was visiting the orphanage. We held babies, played with the children, and toured the orphanage’s farm. I enjoyed talking with the older children and getting to know them. The children also care for one another, and it was heart-warming to see the amount of kindness, love, and respect they have at such a young age.
What is the number one lesson you learned during your trip to Kenya?
Lindsey Green: I learned to have a more positive outlook on life while on this trip. Despite the hardships that people faced I saw countless smiles, hope, and joy. Being grateful for all the blessings and opportunities that we are presented with in life was another lesson that I learned as well.
If you were offered to travel on another trip similar to this, would you go again?
Lindsey Green: Yes, without hesitation.
Lauren Carls: It is a goal of mine to return to Kenya!
Mindy Cole: I would definitely say yes and I would try to take my family too!
To learn more about our Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs or global learning opportunities, visit our website.
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