In March, a group of 11 Nebraska Methodist College students participated in the Spring Break Service Immersion, giving them a first-hand look at food issues in the surrounding Omaha community. The service immersion focused on the nutritional status of children among Omaha’s urban population.
Nebraska Methodist College’s service immersions provide students with intensive community-based learning experiences. Through the service immersions, Nebraska Methodist College aims to provide students with opportunities to gain greater self and global awareness by studying diverse cultures, politics, economics and healthcare.
During the March service immersion, students explored food insecurities within Omaha and learned about strategies for preventing of childhood obesity. The service immersion took the students to a number of organizations in the Omaha area to both learn and volunteer:
- The group joined with employees of Woodhouse Auto Group in volunteering at the Food Bank for the Heartland. The group formed a production line to package weekend food backpacks for area children in need. The project provided breakfast and lunch for children in need during the weekends when they are away from school. The food was provided by a partnership between the Food Bank and ConAgra, which serves more than 8,000 children throughout 220 schools.
- Students learned about The Big Garden, an outreach program aimed at establishing community gardens throughout Omaha in an effort to improve nutritional health and facilitate community development. The community gardens are focused on providing communities of need with options of having fresh produce and bringing the community and neighbors together by working as a team. The Big Garden provides support in establishing the community gardens, including securing grant money for seed and soil, building raised beds in areas where the soil may have lead contamination and providing education to the individuals in the community about continuing their garden.
- The group visited Table Grace Café during the service immersion. The café is a non-profit restaurant in downtown Omaha that focuses on providing food to everyone who walks through their door whether or not they can pay for it. The café runs off of donations from patrons, but doesn’t turn away those who can’t donate. The café encourages those who can’t donate to volunteer at the restaurant.
- The immersion brought the students to the Omaha Opportunities Industrialization Center where they assisted members of the adult program in starting their own garden. While some students helped the members assemble garden starter kits of seeds and potting soil, other students helped till soil in garden beds to prepare for planting. The students provided instructions on how to care for the new plants and talked about ways to prepare the vegetables. The members were very excited and seemed to have a lot of hope for taking care of their new project.
- The students visited with a school nurse at Minne Lusa Elementary School in North Omaha to learn about the food insecurity issues among the families in the surrounding community.
In early January, a group of Nebraska Methodist College students traveled to Laredo, Texas, for the Winter Break Service Immersion.
Laredo is located along the United States border with Mexico about 200 miles from the southern tip of Texas. During the week-long immersion, students from NMC worked with Habitat for Humanity building a home in the area and worked alongside community health workers, known in Spanish as promotoras.
Promotoras are community members trained to provide basic health education in the community. Though they are not professional healthcare workers, promotoras play a vital role in educating their Latino communities about health issues and providing guidance in accessing community resources associated with healthcare.
NMC was able to make connections to promotoras in Loredo through a longstanding partnership with the Sisters of Mercy, an international organization that serves people who suffer from poverty, sickness or lack of education. Through the experience, NMC students were exposed to cultural barriers and issues related to immigration. In the process, students learned ways to use community resources for the benefit of their own patients and clients.
The trip was also a chance for NMC’s Center for Health Partnerships to further develop its own community health worker program in Omaha called Our Families’ Health. Members of Our Families’ Health also participated in the immersion. Working alongside the promotoras allowed them an opportunity to discuss and observe best practices that they could bring with them back to Omaha.
More to Come
Another service immersion is scheduled for March to Nashville, Tenn. During that trip, students will work with the Nashville Mobile Market and the Martha O’Bryan Center educating individuals about healthy food choices and how nutrition affects health.
Contact Volunteer Opportunities for more information about NMC’s Service Immersion offerings.
Service-learning is a valuable and rewarding part of the education that students receive at Nebraska Methodist College. Simply put, service-learning is learning while serving your community. It’s about helping others in need while gaining important experience for a future job or career.
That’s exactly the idea behind NMC’s service-learning opportunities. NMC offers several service-learning opportunities through outreach to local immigrant and refugee populations, regional Native American tribes, and area elderly. NMC also partners with several community organizations, which are hubs of service-learning opportunities for students.
Last week, we took a look at the experiences of a group of students who traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation for NMC’s Rosebud Service Immersion. The trip, one of multiple service immersions throughout the year, is a prime example of service-learning.
Students worked in several settings where their career could potentially take them, including hospital and outpatient settings, ambulance calls, a local women’s shelter, and an alcohol and substance abuse recovery ranch for youth. While gaining that valuable experience, they offered their skills to people in need. The trip also gives students a chance to broaden their horizons by working with people from another culture and different economic background.
Another excellent example of service-learning takes place in NMC’s accelerated nursing program. Students provide health education and screenings to Omaha-area immigrants and refugees at the Mexican Consulate, the Somali Bantu Center, the International Center of the Heartland and for World Refugee Day. Just like students who attend the Rosebud Service Immersion, the accelerated nursing students get a chance to practice their skills while learning about people from other cultures.
Among other service-learning partnerships, NMC’s community partnerships with Cosmopolitan International and Omaha Housing Authority stand out. NMC partners with Cosmopolitan International for the Mobile Diabetes Center. Through the Mobile Diabetes Center, NMC students provide diabetes screenings and education in a wide variety of community settings. Through NMC’s partnership with the Omaha Housing Authority, students provide health screening and education for older adults in public housing.
Service-learning is a win-win in providing help to those in the community who are in need, while building skills and experience in the healthcare professionals of tomorrow.
For more information about NMC’s service-learning opportunities, visit our Community-Based Learning page.