BEMIDJI - Eleven local nursing students from Northwest Technical College and Bemidji State University recently returned from a mission trip to Belize.

The students were the first to enroll in a new course, International Perspectives of Nursing, and spent about a month in Belize as they experienced health care from another perspective.

During classes before the trip, students focused on course work and group activities in preparation for their in-country experience.

According to an email from students, they went on a medical mission trip based out of Punta Gorda, a small town in the southern part of the Toledo district in Belize.

While there, they worked in local clinics and educated the public on the importance of hand-washing, oral hygiene, nutrition, breastfeeding, a healthy-baby diet, HIV/STDs, complications of pregnancy, prenatal care and first aid.

They stayed with host families.

“We all learned many things from them and their very diverse culture, variety of languages, popular food dishes, and the importance of family in their way of life,” the students wrote. “We were able to participate in helping the community in a variety of ways.”

They also put on health fairs, offering locals education and blood pressure and blood sugars screenings.

“Another great opportunity we were provided with was the chance to go into a few of the local school and educate children,” the students wrote.

They worked with a local organization called Sustainable Harvest that strives to identify the most effective way to grow crops and then they teach these methods to the local farmers.  

“We helped them build garden plots from nature’s resources and aided with rebuilding a thatched roof building that had been destroyed in a fire,” students reported. “It was great to put our energy toward a cause that would benefit our ‘hometown’ long after we were gone.”