International Medical Trip: Nicaraguan Hospitals

Walking into the hospital a large sign was pointed out that read, “No se cobra por ningun servicio,” which means that all of the services that are offered at the hospital are free. We were able to talk with the director of the hospital who took time out of his busy schedule to educate us on the health care system present in Nicaragua. He stated that the government funds all of the hospitals expenses and supplies the necessary equipment. However, when touring the hospital, it was apparent that the hospitals in Nicaragua do not have the same level of technology and resources that are present in American hospitals.

We were fortunate enough to shadow doctors in the hospital for two days and it was a very rewarding experience. We were able to observe a hip replacement, knee surgeries, C-sections, hysterectomies, cholecystectomies and many others. Although the doctors did not have the same quality of equipment as doctors in America do, the quality of health care provided seemed sufficient. The resourcefulness of the doctors contributed to effectiveness of their care. After one of the knee surgeries we were able to talk with an orthopedic surgeon who studied in America and Germany. He explained to us how certain parts of the surgery had to be modified because of the lack of resources. He also described how most of the surgeries performed are successful and that infection is rarely a problem. This was surprising to us because the level of sanitation in the hospital was extremely poor relative to an American hospital. At one point we saw a mouse scurrying across the hallway right outside the operating rooms. We were impressed by the fact that the orthopedic surgeon had the opportunity to work in other first world countries, but still chose to work in Nicaragua for a much lower salary. It showed us the level of pride the doctors have in their work and in helping the people of Nicaragua.

A couple of us were also afforded the opportunity to speak with the anesthesiologist. We learned that she is the only fully-certified anesthesiologist for the northern region of Nicaragua. There is extreme demand for anesthesiology, and many Nicaraguan medical students are intimidated to go into this field because of the pressures and demand, thus feeding an on-going cycle. She elaborated on the importance of making sacrifices in favor of helping those around you. She also stated that we should have “no fear” as she went on to tell us about how she went to Africa to participate in the fight against Ebola. She was an inspiration to speak with and watch work – her ability was just as impressive, if not more so, than the anesthesiologists we’ve met in the USA.

At the end of our trip we donated all of the supplies we collected prior to our service. The supplies we collected filled up more than 4 garbage bags and it felt good to know that we were going to be supplying much needed resources to the faculty at the hospital. We were grateful that we were welcomed to shadow the surgeons and the donations gave us a way to express our gratitude.

-Connor Gullstrand and Lenka Craigova

Midweek: Children’s Medical- Tennessee: “The Real Heroes”

Well it’s about midway into our trip today. Sorry it’s been a while since we posted, but it’s been a busy week. Much of the past three days have been spent at Le Bonheur, along with the Fed Ex Family House. Many of us have taken on various duties at the hospital including the Hot Beverage Cart, Activity Cart, Arts and Crafts Room, Sibling Play Room and Respite Buddy.

The Hot Beverage Cart is one of the favorites along with the Respite Buddy. This cart is stocked with hot cocoa, coffee, tea and cider and we went floor to floor offering complementary beverages to families and staff. You cannot imagine how appreciative people are for a simple cup of coffee. It really makes you appreciate the little things we have at our fingertips.


Respite Buddy is everyone’s favorite role. We have the opportunity to sit in rooms with the kids and interact with them to keep their minds away from the treatment going on around them, but also allow them to be “normal” as much as possible. From caring to twin boys who just want to run the halls, to newborn babies who just need someone to cuddle with, we’ve had a variety of kids. One thing that really stuck out was in the elevator, a few doctors referred to us as “the real heroes”. We were overwhelmed by this reference because we think that the kids and doctors are the heroes, but they think so highly of us.

The FedEx House is where families can stay right across the hospital for free. They have suites and full kitchens where they can spend their time away from home. Although it’s not pleasant to be away from home, this place is truly amazing. We have baked cookies for the families, served a meal and sorted through many donations.

Our service continues at Le Bonheur the next few days and we also have the chance to go to the Ronald McDonald House tomorrow to cook a meal. It’s been an emotional week, but the stories we’ve heard and people we’ve met are truly amazing and inspiring. Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers!


Pre-Trip Thoughts: Urban Poverty, Philadelphia, PA

It is very hard to believe that tomorrow is the day that we board our flight and head to Philadelphia for a week of service with Our Brother’s Place. As a group we have been working hard for the last few months getting ready to serve by getting to know each other with interesting and fun ice breakers, having conversations about how to be fully engaged in service as well as having guest speakers like Father Ciferni whose home Abbey is the Daylesford Abbey where we will be staying for the week and Father Sal who has first hand experience serving with Our Brother’s Place.

Each trip that is sent out through the TRIPS Program has a social justice issue that is the main focus of service and our trip will be focusing on the issue of Urban Poverty as we work together to serve a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. We will be spending the week as guests at the Abbey where we will have the opportunity to have meals, share in prayer, participate in reflection as well as attend mass when we are not in the city. Monday through Friday we will be taking a train from the Daylesford Abbey to the city where we will arrive at Our Brother’s Place homeless shelter. We will be receiving education in the mornings followed by labor that we will be doing around the shelter like cleaning and sorting. In the afternoons we will be serving and eating lunch with the residents and spending time with them by playing games and making conversation.

As a group we have many motivations, experiences and excitements in anticipation for our trip. We have participants with little to no experience with service trips like Anne Geenen, a freshman this year who said “I can’t wait to complete my first ever service trip” in our pre-trip reflections.  Other students have served on mission trips or who have participated in our TRIPS Program like Danielle who noted in reflection that “After being exposed to homelessness and poverty in my trip last year to D.C. through the TRIPS Program and getting to know people who are affected, I have a personal connection with the issue. I want to be able to help more people like those I met in D.C.” and Adam who will be going on the trip for a second year and this year as a Trip Leader.

As a group, we are nervous and excited to have the opportunity to go on this trip through St. Norbert and to reach outside of our De Pere community and serve in an environment that many of us are not familiar with. It is incredible to think we will be in Philadelphia in a little over 24 hours. So, cheers to the last minute packing, early rising, long drives to the airport and a safe flight. Keep us in your prayers as we depart from the Milwaukee airport bright and early tomorrow morning!

-Rachel Pischke

International Poverty: St. Lucia, West Indies

International poverty is not something that you muscle with tons of money. International poverty must be understood. Poverty must be understood on a personal level. We must recognize a person’s fears and aspirations, and understand that every small improvement helps. Most people who come to St. Lucia to remedy international poverty will end the day wrestling with guilt, having seen the way some of the local residents are forced to live. The stark contrast can be emotionally blinding. Some immediately jump to the conclusion that we waste our money on iPhones and fancy clothes. We do. Some might ask, “Why don’t we donate all our extra cash? Then nobody will suffer from poverty!”A novel idea but lacking some perspective. First off is that is the utopian view of a socialist society. We cannot get everyone to agree to allocate their money to people they don’t know. Second is that there is a huge difference in falling from privilege into the ill-defined “poverty” and starting from poverty.

Having known the crutches, distractions, and amenities that we rely on our everyday lives it is easy to put ourselves into the shoes of someone without all of these “privileges” and say, “look at what they are missing”. Coming from poverty, your thoughts consist of finding your next meal and fixing your roof, so the child that you love and care for can sleep a little deeper come nightfall. Our goal is not to build a three story house with a basement and a flat screen TV, like the one you have back home. Our goal is to give them security like they have never had before, and show them kindness that they might otherwise not experience. It’s amazing how four walls and a roof can provide a smile that can change your life forever.

-Alex Velcier

Day One: Immigration and Refugee Issues, Chicago, IL

Today was our first full day of service in Chicago. Mother nature was not on our side as temperatures barely made it into the single digits. We started the day by making about an hour long trip to the other side of town. We appointed Krystal and Ruby as navigators for the group today and they did a great job because we did not get lost. We spent the day at the Iraqi Mutual Aid Center. The Iraqi Mutual Aid Center assists refugees in getting settled into their new life in America.  At the center we were split into groups and assigned tasks. One group was assigned to call on Child Care Centers and find prices for the child care. Chris and I called around to different food pantries to make sure all of the information was up to date. Mikaela and Krystal checked on ESL classes and what type of services they offered. Overall, we were very busy for the entire day and spent it working hard. It was eye opening to see how refugees who are new to the country have difficulty with some of the simple things like dressing warm for winter or helping their children in elementary school. This is because life is so different here than their home country. I am looking forward to tomorrow when we get to visit the Immigration Court. Hopefully it is a little warmer than today!

-Nick Mueller

Pre-Trip Thoughts: Immigration and Refugee Issues, Chicago, IL

As we prepare to depart on our trip, our group is anxious, yet excited. We have looked forward to this date and this week for the last two months. Earlier in this process our group shared our fears about the Immigration and Refugee Issues trip to Chicago. Many of these fears consisted of fear of language barriers and being viewed an outsider. However we know that the work we will be conducting over the course of the week will be impactful and rewarding!

This evening we went shopping with the goal of spending $2 per meal per person. This was a daunting task, while trying to plan for a week of meals for six people. We however paired up with another person and each pair was assigned a meal. We were able to purchase all of our meals and have lots of money left over! We finished off the night by playing Uno! We cannot believe that one of our games lasted over an hour and a half.

I cannot wait to see what the week has in store for us and how it impacts us as individuals and as a group!

-Mathew Clark

International Medical trip, Nicaragua: Clinics with Amazing Views


Not all of the roads in Nicaragua are paved, so for our trip to set up the second rural clinic we drove for about an hour and a half on a windy, gravel road. For both of the rural clinics we worked in cooperation with the local Medical and Dental School, UCATSE. Over the course of two weeks, we were able to host two rural clinics, one each week. The first site we went to was north of Esteli, it was a small community called Dipilto. And the following week we went to a tropical paradise hidden in Nicaragua, called Miraflor.

Once at the rural clinic site we would take vitals, check patients’ glucose levels, and test their blood type. After having their vitals taken the patients would then decide if they wanted to have a consultation with the medical doctors, get their teeth checked by the dentists, or both. If the doctors prescribed them any type of medication, they would stop by the pharmacy table and pick up their free medication.

For the patients that saw the dentists at the rural clinics there was only one option, to have their bad teeth extracted. Due to the lack of reoccurring dental visits and resources to take care of their teeth, many of the patients’ teeth have severe decay and infections. The patients ranged in ages from little children to older men and women. Looking in some of their mouths it was so sad to see little kids whose adult molars had so much decay. They needed to be pulled very prematurely due to the infection. Many of the older patients that visited had to have many teeth pulled out, so that no further issues arise in the future.

A highlight, despite all of the extractions in the clinics, were all of the smiles on the people’s faces when we were able to give them free toothbrushes and toothpaste. For some people these were the first toothbrushes that they had ever received. It is truly amazing to realize how blessed we are here, in comparison to places like Nicaragua where they have little access to resources and education.

With the two rural clinics we were able to help just over 300 men, women, and children! We would like to send a big thank you to the staff and students from UCATSE who were able to join us to help the people of these communities!

Angela and Sara