A local University of Findlay pharmacy student learned about Haitian culture, appreciation and education during a mission trip on his spring break.
Derek Wurm, 21, a native of Attica and 2007 Seneca East High School graduate, is in his fourth year of a six-year pharmacy program. He and eight other students and two professors participated in a medical mission trip to Haiti through the university in March.
He said he attended an on-campus meeting about the trip and had to apply to participate through the pharmacy college. It was the first year for the trip, and the university is looking at making it an annual voyage, he said.
Wurm said next year, he plans to go on a trip to Honduras. He said for his career, he would like to do something where he would have an opportunity to go abroad and take trips, such as the one to Haiti, more often.
He said he had heard friends talk about mission trips, but he never had the opportunity to take one. He said he wasn't going to let the opportunity pass him by.
"I'm definitely looking forward to my next one," he said.
Wurm said the group provided medical relief to cities and hosted medical clinics at Children of Israel Orphanage in Les Cayes and a church associated with the orphanage.
According to Caribbean Children's Foundation's website, Children of Israel Orphanage, which is located on the southwest coast of Haiti, opened in the fall of 2001 and began as a home to five little girls. Children in the orphanage were displaced with last year's earthquake. The earthquake meant plans for a new campus needed to be sped up, the website states.
During the clinics, travelers took patients' vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, temperature and weight, and talked to them about their most dire problem. Four trained nurses with the group also saw the patients and sent them to a pharmacy, where
the students assisted with filling the prescriptions and determining dosages of antibiotics.
After spending time at the orphanage and church, the group traveled to Ile-a-Vache and had a clinic at Pointe Est. Wurm said the group was the first medical mission team to go to the location, and most people cannot afford vaccinations or a trip to the mainland to see a doctor. During another clinic, the group met people from a town, and most of them never had seen doctors, he said.
"We were there for a day," he said.
Wurm said the next two days, the group hosted clinics at Grande Plaine. He said the students and professors saw everyone who wished to be examined there.
"We actually ran out of patients," he said.
Wurm described the trip as "amazing" and said nothing went wrong. The group members had to get vaccinations and take antibiotics.
"No one ever got sick," he said.
Wurm said he learned a lot about the Haitian culture and picked up on the language. He said people's faces would light up when he was able to say phrases.
Wurm said he learned Haitians are hard-working people, and everyone tries to find a job.
The greatest gift, he said, is for them to be able to send their children to school. They don't have the opportunity to go to school because they don't make any money, he said.
"They just don't have the means to be educated," he said.
Wurm said it is different in Haiti. The group gave a woman a bottle of Tums, and she kissed it. When Haitians are given a sticker, they love it, he said.
"They have nothing and appreciate everything. ... (In America,) we have everything, and we appreciate nothing," he said.
Wurm said the trip was eye-opening.
"I want to do it again," he said.