ORONO, Maine — Twelve University of Maine nursing students, a recent nursing graduate, and a faculty adviser are raising money for a spring break trip to Belize in Central America in order to help underprivileged families.

The trip is scheduled for Feb. 27 to March 6. University of Maine School of Nursing lecturer Susan Wheaton will accompany the group and assist local medical teams in Belize with treating patients.

After orientation and field training, the students will break into teams and head to various towns and villages to conduct community health surveys to assess health needs among the population. Those identified in need of medical care will be invited to a clinic staffed and supervised by licensed medical professionals. Students will rotate in shifts through various stations performing services such as patient intake, triage, examinations, diagnosis, treatment and pharmacy.

“Being able to travel with nursing students to areas in need of health care will provide an opportunity of growth, both personal and more importantly as a nurse,” Wheaton said in a recent blog post. “If you can support these nursing students, you will be part of an amazing journey. Everyone at some point needs the special care of a nurse.”

According to fourth-year student Allison Doe, the level of excitement is high and students are hoping this will be the first of ongoing annual visits to Belize. In a recent blog post, she said,
“Traveling to Belize will be a wonderful opportunity for a mutual learning experience between both us and the communities we will be serving.”

Expenses for the trip are estimated at just over $2,000 per person, and the students are working hard to raise the money needed, according to Nancy Fishwick, the director of the University of Maine Nursing School. The students have set up a website — www.umainenursinginbelize.blogspot.com — for blog posts to record the experience and to track fundraising efforts.

For those interested in donating, the next fundraising event the students have organized is a bake sale and raffle from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 5-6 in the Memorial Union on campus.

The outreach program is coordinated by the International Service Learning Organization, a nongovernmental organization that has offered medical service programs in Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa, Central and South America since 1993. To learn more, visit www.islonline.org/programs/nursing.