The home neared completion, not quite move-in ready but nearly there. The students were able to look from one to another with the realization that they had contributed in a substantial way to the future happiness of the couple who would be moving in just a few short days, ready to welcome their new baby into the world.
This is the scene that played out just a couple weeks ago. While many in the Omaha area were more concerned about dealing with the relentless cold weather, Nebraska Methodist College students worked in the warm environs of Laredo, Texas.
It was there that they volunteered for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, working together to make one family’s dream a reality. The students are now back at NMC, pursuing degrees that will enable them to help many, many more people throughout their careers, but for one week, they got to help others in a very different, but no less valuable, manner.
A Warm Welcome
Upon touching down in Texas, the students were immediately welcomed by both Habitat for Humanity and the southern climate. A local church put them up for the week, and students wasted no time getting situated in their cots, lodged snugly in the basement.
The trip began in earnest the next morning, when the team was brought to the Sisters of Mercy clinic, which provides affordable healthcare services to members of the local community. Throughout the week, students alternated between the H4H house site and the clinic. At the latter, they’d be tasked with watching clinic workers interact with and treat patients and even provide essential healthcare services themselves.
Given its location near the border, the Sisters of Mercy clinic employs individuals who are fluent in both English and Spanish, and students got to experience firsthand the difficulty of communicating when a language barrier stands in the way. This was particularly evident when students would ride along for house calls, providing care to those who weren’t able to come to the clinic itself.
The Sister of Mercy also deploy a mobile vehicle not unlike our own Mobile Diabetes Center. Students rode along during visits to houses and even a local Senior Center. All the while, they worked on their Spanish language skills and provided health services to those in need.
The House That Care Built
When they weren’t providing assistance to the Sisters of Mercy in their capacity as caregivers for the local community, these compassionate representatives of NMC were harnessing latent construction skills they may not have even known they had.
Students arrived to find a grouping of houses in various stages of completion. They rolled up their sleeves and set out to do whatever work was necessary to complete the residences. Oftentimes, that meant learning the intricacies of power tools or landscaping on the fly.
Once again, students confronted the language barrier at times but quickly discovered just how much could be communicated through a simple gesture. The other volunteers, and indeed, the entire Laredo community, were as welcoming as a group could possibly be, helping the students at every turn and expressing incredible patience with the Methodist team, many of whom hadn’t been involved in a construction project since, well, ever.
The Experience of a Lifetime
As students recollect their experience, what they recall most vividly is the friendships they made with their fellow builders and the community that welcomed them as if they were family. One student points out the incredible spirit of the children who lived in a shelter they had visited one afternoon, kids who had been through so much but who still emanated so much warmth and happiness that it was contagious.
They returned home with the newfound knowledge of what it really means to be on the front lines of healthcare. We have no doubt that the people of Laredo made a notable impact on their lives and that these NMC students will carry this level of compassion and caring with them long into the future.
This blog post was made possible thanks to contributions and recollections from the many students who participated in the Laredo immersion experience.