The opportunity to engage in community development work in Ethiopia, building upon my education in nursing leadership, community engagement, public health and evidence based best practice at Seattle University, was invaluable to my career and has left a lasting impression on me as a clinician. Through the opportunity take my education abroad, I implemented community-based programs in essential newborn care and neonatal resuscitation with nurses and midwives in the rural community of Yetebon, Ethiopia in cooperation with host organization Project Mercy. Both programs provided wonderful discussions on current practice in participant’s respective clinics, with opportunity to engage in shared learning for how participants might improve practice in their facilities and thus neonatal outcomes in their region. In this regard, participants were able to learn from the program content as well as from each other, while providing me a rich cross-cultural experience. Moving forward as a public health practitioner and nurse, I will continue to reflect on lessons learned in community engagement, outreach, health education and coalition building afforded to me through this experience.
Immediately upon arrival, we were able to take in the culture. The locals were welcoming, colors were vibrant, the streets were busy with people hard at work and there was an abundance of love in the interactions we began having. At home, I am comfortable jumping in and offering my help in many circumstances but with my language barrier abroad, it took much more effort to communicate. Many times I felt unable to help the way I am used to but I learned quickly to be patient with myself in the way people in Nicaragua were patient with life. I found alternate ways of communicating and I spent more time being present instead of doing all of the time. I found myself admiring the way people there supported their communities; it offered me hope that even in a nation recognized to be one of the most impoverished could fill the world with such compassion, love and gratitude. It was humbling to be welcomed into homes, fed by families, invited to teach in schools and trusted to assess the health of many community members. It was enriching to be part of building and maintaining the partnerships Seattle University has with Corazón Contento and Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua while serving, teaching, learning and becoming more culturally aware. Now, after my return, I am excited to find ways of bringing these life lessons to Seattle and to help keep the bridges strong between our two cultures.
By Jennifer Fricas, from the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference, May 2011: Guiding Meaningful Student Reflection throughout Education Abroad Experiences
By Jennifer Fricas, from the Global Health Education Consortium Conference, April 2010: North-South Academic-Community Partnerships: A “Learning Away – Learning at Home” Model for Multicultural Collaboration in Nursing Education
By Jennifer Fricas, with Ruth White (Social Work), from the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference, May 2009: Integrating effective service learning content into education abroad courses