8:29 a.m., Feb. 16, 2010----Thanks to a group of nursing students, faculty, and family members, 218 people in Port au Prince, Haiti, will receive bags containing items that most Americans just assume will be on the shelves of their medicine cabinets and linen closets when they need them -- soap, hand towels, washcloths, toothbrushes, nail clippers and adhesive bandages.
Led by Evelyn Hayes, professor, and Judy Herrman, associate professor in the University of Delaware School of Nursing, the group of some 20 volunteers met in Room 227 McDowell Hall at noon on Monday, Feb. 15, to assemble the bags, which will be delivered to Haiti and distributed to recipients through a regional effort organized by the Presbyterian Church.
The volunteers included representatives of the Student Nursing Organization (SNO) and Beta Xi, the UD chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau international nursing honor society. Four freshmen, three seniors, one accelerated nursing program student, and several faculty advisors were joined by seven children ranging in age from four to fourteen.
For freshman Corin Roman, the hygiene kit project was her first volunteer experience at UD. “It feels good for me to do something,” she said. “I can't fly to Haiti, but this is a way that I can help.”
Each bag weighed about a pound and cost roughly $6 to assemble. Some people donated supplies for the bags, while others gave money to purchase needed items.
Herrman and Hayes had to do some serious comparison shopping to get the best deals with the cash donations they received. “Nail clippers were the biggest challenge,” Herrman said. “They cost between 50 cents and $2 each -- we ended up going to 17 different Happy Harry's stores to get the 50-cent version.”
Dollar stores were great sources for inexpensive combs in assorted colors. “We bought all the combs they had except for the black ones,” said Hayes. “We want the packages to look nice and cheerful when people get them.”
At the end of the packing session, dozens of bars of soap were left over. “We'll donate them to Emmaus House, the local homeless shelter,” Hayes said. “That way, we waste nothing, and we're spreading our outreach efforts.”
The excess soap was carefully boxed by four-year-old Justin and seven-year-old Jimmy, sons of instructor Jennifer Saylor. “Jimmy was so excited to come today,” Saylor said. “He learned about Haiti in school, then got a book at the library and wanted to know what he could do to help.”
Josiah Cowperthwait, 12-year-old son of Resource Simulation Center coordinator Amy Cowperthwait, was off school for President's Day and came in to lend a hand with packing bags and moving boxes. “It's nice to put something forward for the kids,” said the Caravel Academy sixth grader. “I can't imagine what it would be like to be them.”
For Pia Inguito, assistant professor, the event was a family affair. Her two sons, 10-year-old Kam and 14-year-old Kai, both packed bags. Kai also tallied the number of bags in each box and kept careful notes on a pad. An eighth grader at the Independence School, he was fulfilling a requirement for time spent volunteering in community service.
Community service is an important part of the culture within the UD School of Nursing, as well. “We do at least a couple of projects every semester,” said SNO president Justine Sosnowski, a senior nursing major.
“I think it's important for us to instill in the students the idea of community outreach, both locally and globally,” Hayes said. “And it's more than just donating money -- we really wanted them to bring in supplies and help put the kits together.”
Just as the group was packing the last of the zipped bags into the last of the cardboard boxes, Kathleen Riley-Lawless, assistant professor, walked into the packed room with an armful of new white towels and washcloths. A cheer went up -- the extra supplies would mean that 16 more bags could be filled, as everything else needed to complete them had already been donated or purchased.
With the extra soap and combs packed to go to the homeless shelter, the only remaining supplies were several boxes of zipper-type plastic bags.
“We'll store them for the next project,” said Hayes. “This will be a work in progress -- the need in Haiti isn't going to disappear any time soon.”
Article by Diane Kukich
Photos by Doug Baker