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Student Takes Independent Trip to India

[IMAGE: Ashley Taylor]

"Nursing is using your capabilities to help others as much as you can," said Ashley Taylor. The senior nursing major from Swansea, Ill. has made this her mission and plans to act on it in outstanding ways.

In the summer of 2012, Ashley took a trip to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India to work at the Mother Theresa Missionaries of Charity. She stayed for a month in the third most populated city of India with over 14 million inhabitants. Immediately after arrival she worked daily in the health clinic Shishu Bhavan.

"I've always had an interest in India and its culture, and Kolkata being a growing metropolitan city is facing several issues such as overpopulation and poverty that are causing many health problems," Ashley said. "These factors led me to want to serve in this vulnerable area and contribute my knowledge and skills." Ashley was introduced to the Missionaries of Charity through an online search and has been intrigued by the group ever since.

With the sisters of the charity working as translators between the patients and the volunteers, and a heavy reliance on nonverbal communication, Ashley was able to utilize her nursing training to help patients in the dispensary with infections, wound dressings, medications, and checking blood pressure and heart rate levels. She also worked in serving disabled children on the second floor of the building.

"The patients being so appreciative, accepting, and kind made me feel so thankful about what I was doing for them," Ashley said. "Seeing the extreme poverty of people in Kolkata made me extremely grateful for what I have here in America, especially in terms of health care."

The Mother Theresa Missionaries of Charity is an organization that provides free care to the impoverished citizens of Kolkata. Patients must be referred from a hospital to the charity and are given various treatments once they are there. The organization is funded by religious groups and donations from all over the world. Every other Saturday the volunteers of the charity go out into other villages surrounding Kolkata and give additional treatments.

"Before I left America, I was very frightened to travel and live alone in this environment, but after I was there I had the opportunity to meet volunteers from all over the world that had the same interests as me," Ashley said. "I would not have had the opportunity to meet those amazing people had I not taken this trip. Volunteers combined their unique skills to provide the best care to this community. I think in the end I have become a stronger and more confident person. It helped me to adjust in a working and cultural environment I'm not accustomed to."

Ashley plans to graduate in May and would like to work on the neurology floor of a children's hospital once she has completed her degree. Her goal is to gain experience in traditional nursing before pursuing a career in international nursing.

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