Volunteering in South America: A Professor’s Journey
By Normadeane Armstrong, Associate Professor, Nursing
My son and I have been in South America for the past two months. We started in Peru working in schools and clinics in the more rural areas outside Cusco. These facilities lack supplies and basic necessities like proper shelter, water and electricity.
Once we acclimated to the altitude, we joined a team made up of volunteers from around the world to head into the higher elevations of the Andes Mountains. Half of the group trekked on foot the other half on horseback carrying supplies to the Quechan people.
During the trek, we experienced a small avalanche that spooked some of the horses. One team member was thrown and sustained a head injury. We were able to get her back to Cusco. We made it to the village safely and were able to deliver the care necessary. At the end of the project, we were treated to a 4-day trek along the Salakay trail to Machu Picchu. It was amazing and very much needed.
Our next stop was Quito, Ecuador to help with earthquake relief. Our first night we experienced two earthquakes. For the first time I will admit I was scared. There is no warning and no way of telling if it was over or going to get worse. We lost one person that night. We spent the next few weeks helping rebuild the hospital and clinics. We were able to meet with some political leaders and church groups to teach about disaster preparedness and assemble "to go" kits. We also met with tourism groups to stress the need for tourist education- what do you do during an earthquake?
After a few weeks on the coast, we headed inland. I had the opportunity to provide a seminar to nursing facility at a local college as well as evaluate a hospital for patient outcome improvement. My son worked with a school for children with special needs. He made a public service announcement for the school and helped with promoting independence for this population. As a break, we were treated to a visit to the Gallopagos Islands. We snorkeled with seals, turtles and sharks. It was amazing.