Christina Buono, a senior nursing student from East Hanover, N.J., spent her winter break from Dec. 28, 2013 to Jan. 16, 2014, volunteering in Tanzania with the organization International Volunteer HQ. In this interview, she shares her experiences.
Why did you decide to do this?
I have always wanted to travel abroad to be able to experience health care in other countries and also to just be able to volunteer in whatever way I could. Helping people has always been my passion, and I thought this was a great way to be able to do that.
What did you do when you were in Tanzania?
While I was in Tanzania I volunteered at Olorieni Community Clinic, which is an outpatient clinic located within a small town in Arusha, Tanzania. At the clinic I did phlebotomy work and assisted the doctor in small surgical procedures. I also volunteered at Neema’s House Baby Orphanage for a day and another orphanage for another day.
What did you learn?
I learned so much while I was in Africa, not just about myself, but also about other people around the world. The most important thing I learned from this experience was that I am so incredibly lucky to be living in a country that has so much to offer me. After living without running water for two and a half weeks, I learned to be truly grateful for the little things I have in my life that others in our world do not. After working in the clinic, I realized that every single day that we live is a true blessing and that we are so fortunate to have so many medical resources and the health care system that we have here in our country, because these underdeveloped countries are not as fortunate. Finally, I learned that the people of Tanzania are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They treat you like family and welcome you into their homes as if you were one of their own.
What was the most rewarding aspect of it?
The most rewarding aspect of this volunteer trip was being able to be a part of helping others. I will never forget the smiles on the children’s faces each day that our group was with them.
What are your future career plans?
My future career plan is to work as a nurse in a pediatric unit at a hospital and continue my education to become a pediatric critical care nurse practitioner.
Were you able to apply what you learned in the Caldwell University Nursing Department during this volunteer experience?
I was definitely able to apply what I learned from the Caldwell Nursing Department to my volunteer experience. During our studies, the professors taught us how important communication is, and I think that is what helped me the most while I was in Africa. The languages spoken in Tanzania are Swahili and English. I came to realize quickly that the children in Tanzania know a lot more English than the older population because they are taught English while in school. As future nurses we need to be able to communicate with patients who are from different cultural backgrounds and may speak a different language. During my work at the clinic, I was able to learn how to be comfortable communicating and caring for patients who were of a different culture than myself, which is a big part of our nursing studies at Caldwell University.
How do you think the Caldwell University Nursing Department has prepared you for your future?
The Caldwell University Nursing Department has been a big part of helping me prepare for my future as a registered nurse. The nursing faculty has provided me with the knowledge and clinical competency needed to care for patients of all different cultures and ethnicities. The knowledge that each professor has to offer has been extremely beneficial to the learning process. They have become wonderful examples to show that hard work and dedication can get you wherever you want to go in life with your career.
What do you think of the new nursing labs?
The new nursing labs are a wonderful addition to the growing nursing program at Caldwell University. Being able to have a space dedicated to nursing has made it extremely beneficial to the classroom and clinical aspects of the program. It has given us plenty of space to perform lab simulations, health assessments and classroom lectures all in one location.