Bay Path Graduate Students Volunteer in Haiti

LONGMEADOW — When American college student Britney Gengel lost her life in the 2010 earthquake that devastated the impoverished island nation of Haiti, her parents set into motion their daughter’s goal.
An orphanage exists now in the small coastal town of Grand-Goâve, Haiti, run by their organization, Be Like Brit. In its three years of existence, a small community has sprung up around the facility. It was here that three young Bay Path College graduate students in physician assistant (PA) studies recently prescribed some happy holidays for those in need.
Ryan Hester, Courtney Opalenik, and Hoang Trinh spent a week of their holiday break prepared to help out with whatever manual tasks that typically comprise service missions of this kind. This particular trip coincided with the first-ever Christmas holiday for these young orphans. What the Bay Path students didn’t expect, however, was to set their newly honed PA skills into practice.
Midway through the students’ time in Haiti, three children were admitted to the orphanage, and the trio performed wellness checks on them. The three students also helped with rounds at a nearby maternity clinic, which made a profound impact. “It was a great surprise for me to have access to helping out clinically, and to have the chance to apply what we’ve learned,” Trinh said.
The Bay Path PA program places an important emphasis on training medical professionals to make an impact in their local and regional community. The students drew a parallel to Grand-Goâve. Many families have relocated to the town to be in proximity to the services being developed at the orphanage.
For Opalenik and Trinh, this was their first trip to the orphanage — but not the last, they say. It was Hester’s third visit, and the trip reaffirmed his love for the people of Haiti. He looks forward to returning to Grand-Goâve, and the orphanage. “To see an orphanage go up and then a community built around it,” he said, “that’s when you know that what you’re doing is important.”
For more on this story, and for pictures of the students in Haiti, visit graduate.baypath.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2014/january/haiti.

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