MACON, Ga. -- Mercer University undergraduate students from the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Nursing recently returned from a 20-day visit to Thailand as part of Mercer on Mission (MOM) ’09. The purpose of the program is to transform students’ lives through academic study and hands-on service learning in international settings. Mercer on Mission ’09 Thailand focused the majority of its service in Northern Thailand supporting efforts to provide education and health care to the hill tribe minority peoples in the cities of Lampang and ChiangMai.
Dr. William Bina, dean of the Mercer School of Medicine, led the team of four faculty and 14 students on the trip. By studying courses in Global Health, and Health Systems and Policy, the students learned and recognized the plight of the hill Tribe minorities which can be referred to as “people that don’t exist.” Much of the students’ work was in support of the both the Thai government’s and Non-Governmental Organization’s efforts to provide education and health care to this underserved population.
By teaching English in Lampang’s Welfare and Vocational Training School for Women, Mercer students helped young girls to speak with Americans and practice English skills essential for securing jobs in Thailand. Mercer senior student Kathryn Doornbus (pictured above working in a rice paddy) said, “Teaching was one of the unexpected joys of my trip. I didn’t realize how much of an impact I had made until the last day when my students left me a letter of thanks. Their words of gratitude brought me to tears, and it dawned on me that I had made a real and tangible difference in their lives in my short time there.”
In addition to teaching English, Bina and the nursing students and faculty provided health clinics for the Lesu Tribe people in an underserved portion of ChiangMai. “The opportunity to assist with health screenings gave me great satisfaction and a yearning to help others who are less fortunate,” according to senior nursing student Samantha Harris.
Students and faculty also assisted a pre-school that provides Hill Tribe children the opportunity to learn basic skills necessary to be admitted to kindergarten in Thailand.
Students and faculty completed their visit by working with an AIDS/HIV orphanage, visiting the Boromarajonani College of Nursing and the Lampang Provincial Hospital. Visiting the community and nurse run rural health clinics and visiting in rural villages gave the students first-hand knowledge of the similarities and differences between health care in Thailand and the United States.
Bina added, “Mercer on Mission uniquely provides Mercer students with learning experiences that change their lives forever. Health is a universal experience and concern for all people. Each Mercer student returns home having connected personally with people and have a broaden view of the world, people, and the common interests we share.”
For more information, Bina can be reached through his Macon office at (478) 301-5570.