Schweitzer Institute shouldering the weight of the world

By on April 7, 2010

Though the semester is soon coming to a close, the Albert Schweitzer Institute is revving up by adding a heap of new programs and expanding upon old ones.  Although the Alternative Spring Break trip already took place, several more will be made this May.

According to David Ives, Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute for eight years, watching students learn and change is the most important reason for him to continue programs like the Alternative Spring Break trip to Leon, Nicaragua.

“It’s impactful when you go to another country and run into someone living in a cardboard box.  It shocks you,”  Ives said.  “I’ve been in 45 countries, seen awful situations of poverty, and it still shocks me.”

As part of a program that has been in place for the past five years, MAT majors will travel there to train teachers.  Students in the areas of political science, nursing and theater will be travelling to Nicaragua and Guatemala.  One focus of these trips will be to look at the effect of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on soldiers.

“Both of these countries have had wars in their countries for 20 to 30 straight years,”  Ives said.  “We still have a serious problem when soldiers go to Iraq for a year and come back for a break.  There they don’t have a break, so I think it’s worse.”

The political science and theater students will work on this issue.  A psychologist will go along to meet with veterans.

Senior business management major Christopher Tsagaris is the student-leader for the trip to Guatemala this upcoming July.  He has the role of meeting with Ives to discuss potential student delegates, as well as promoting the trip and fielding any questions students might have.

“To be able to lead a fresh group of faces into Nicaragua, and see how the new delegation works so hard and embraces the culture is truly rewarding,”  Tsagaris said.

Once in Guatemala, Tsagaris and fellow students will be working on building a new classroom.  Last year they began another classroom and were able to see pictures of the finished product after their return to the United States.

“It is important to understand that this work that we do is what will help to change our world for the better.  What we do is impacting the lives of real people,”  Tsagaris said.  “We are able to see the immediate impact and influence we have on the lives of these Nicaraguans and Guatemalans.  We are in a unique position to be able to help better the lives of many natives.  The joy that you feel knowing that you helped someone is indescribable and something that everyone should strive for.”

Associate Professor of Political Science Sean Duffy will be leading one of the recently added trips in May.  He will be leading students to Nicaragua for the first time, studying the effects of sugar, how it is raised and the effect it has on the economy.

Professor of Theater Crystal Brian will also be travelling to Nicaragua with a group of students for a newly added theater program.  Last November, students in Nicaraguan elementary schools, primarily fourth through seventh grades, kept journals and answered questions about their lives on a daily basis.  These questions ranged from what their main worries are to what their lives are like.  The junior and senior Quinnipiac students will make a play about the lives of the children while they are there to celebrate the lives of the Nicaraguan students.

Additionally, eight nursing students will be led by Professor of Nursing Barbara Moynihan for a one week trip.

The nursing students have been asked to develop a seminar that will focus on stress management and grief.  In Nicaragua, the students will present this seminar to the nurses at the local hospital.

Students will have the additional opportunity to shadow the nurses in various units and assist them when possible.  In the area they will be staying, there is only one clinic that has limited medical care.  It is only on an intermittent basis that a pharmacy and pharmacist is present. The students will be spending time at the clinic providing medical and nursing care, aiming to support the nurses and physicians in providing care to the community members seeking medical assistance.

“Not only do we assist the people in Nicaragua but we also benefit from this experience as well,” Moynihan said. “We are welcomed by everyone that we meet and leave with a feeling of enrichment and sadness at leaving a community that we have been a part of and have formed friendships that are hard to forget.”

According to Moynihan, the nursing program plans to continue to return there to further develop and expand their medical services.

The Albert Schweitzer Institute is currently hosting a new exhibit of pictures from recent trip accomplishments and encounters.  The exhibit will be up until the end of the semester.

“I’ve been able to accomplish a lot more than anyone thought we would when I came here eight years ago, but I now see the potential,”  Ives said.  “The ASI is now a player around the world.”

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About Meghan Parmentier

Senior Managing Editor
Email: editor@quchronicle.com
Twitter: @MegE921
Year: 2012
Major: English & public relations
Hometown: Hudson, N.Y.
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