Three Georgian nursing students bound for DR

March 16, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

While most students enrolled in the practical nursing program at Orangeville’s Georgian College campus are preparing themselves for a week of end-of-semester rest and relaxation in April, three undergraduates have signed on to provide aid and relief to the impoverished residents of San Jose de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic.

Second-year students Annie Fawns, Sonam Prasad and Holly Simon were inspired when they first learned about the trip opportunity last January. A lengthy application process ensued over the following months before their spot was confirmed in December. Now, the trio are looking forward to heading down south and “making a difference” on April 27.

“The main purpose of the trip is to provide proper medication and medical care to the villagers down in Ocoa,” Ms. Fawns said. Ms. Prasad added, “Access to medication and health-care professionals is scarce in this particular region. Ocoa is very poverty-stricken. The community lacks food, resources, sanitation, fresh water and medical supplies. Our hope is that we can help to make a difference, however big or small, in the lives of these people.”

The three local students will be joined by 27 fellow Georgian College students based in Barrie and Owen Sound. Some of that group, Annie, Sonam and Holly included, will spend nine nights living on a compound in the provincial capital before returning to Canada on May 5. The others will be completing their mission in rural Consuelo, a 200-kilometre trek east of Ocoa.

While they each admitted they didn’t know exactly what to expect down in the Dominican, a basic itinerary has been provided to the students. In it, Ms. Fawns states they will board a bus each morning and be transported to a local village, where the team will set up a clinic and aim to treat as many people as possible. They have each been tasked with learning Spanish, as most of the population in Ocoa know little to no English.

Facing a cost of $1,650, many of the students involved opted to fundraise for the mission. Ms. Fawns recalls some of her friends chipping in without exactly knowing what they were helping to fund.

“When I was telling my friends I needed some money for this trip they all helped out. It was funny though, they were saying things like ‘It’s going to be so much fun! Enjoy the resort’, no, no. We’re going to be staying with the villagers, living how they’re living,” Ms. Fawns said. “This isn’t a trip where we get to relax in the sun, we’re going down there to help these people. To try and make a difference in the world.”

When asked what they hope to learn from the experience, Ms. Simon perhaps explained it best – to gain an appreciation for everything we have available to us here in Canada.

“For me, as well as helping people, I’m taking this as an opportunity to broaden my experiences and overall outlook on life. I think this will make me more aware of what things are really like in the world. We are all so lucky to have what we have in Canada and live the way we do. If we can bring a little bit of what we have to them, that’s what I’d like to do,” Ms. Simon said. “I know we can’t change everybody’s life, but if we can just make one difference, or maybe two, then the whole thing will be more than worth it.”

Having discussed the trip with various instructors at Georgian, Ms. Prasad says the group’s learning experience in the Dominican will be like no other and will truly prepare them for life after college.

“I’ve heard when students come home from this trip they are more confident in their skills and are more appreciative of their practice,” Ms. Prasad stated. Reflecting on what she hopes to learn, “I see health care in Canada and I think we are very truly blessed to have access to everything we do. Going down to the Dominican, I want to be more open and be more aware that people may not have the same resources and opportunities that we have.”

With just six weeks to go until the group leaves, Annie, Sonam and Holly are now focused on gathering as many medical supplies as they possibly can to take down with them. That’s where, they hope, the community will step in.

They are looking for basic medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, robaxacet and migraine pills. Anti-infectives such as amoxicillin and cephalosporin and various cardiac, respiratory and gastrointestinal meds. Annie says they are also accepting insulin, antidepressants, vitamins, infant formula and other medications to treat acne, scabies and both eye and skin infections. The group is also asking for items such as stethoscopes, scissors, syringes, tensor bandages, cotton balls, band aids, gloves, slings and staple and suture removal kits. School supplies such as pencils, erasers, markers, rulers, calculators and reading books (in Spanish) are also being accepted.

“I know Orangeville is a great community. They rally around great causes and we truly believe this is a great cause,” Ms. Fawns said. “Any donation, big or small, would be very much appreciated and put to great use.”

A drop-off box has been placed in the main entrance at Georgian’s campus on Centennial Road. For more information regarding donations, contact Annie at

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