As a profession, nursing is committed to dramatic social and economic advancement by empowering under-served communities through health education, the creation of networks to access health care resources, and hands on service to contribute to world health. It is through these ideals that nurses can assist communities in the performance of activities that contribute to their health, thus strengthening local and global communities.
In 2007, I partner with the Village Life Outreach Project, Inc., a non-profit organization working with rural villages in Tanzania, East Africa to fight poverty by promoting life, health and education at the grassroots level. As a non-profit organization, Village Life seeks to unite communities by promoting social responsibility and empowering villagers to address a broad range of social and biological determinants of health, such as health care, oral health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and agricultural development. Village Life ties community involvement to support from nurses, engineers, doctors, teachers and students in an effort to enact long-lasting, sustainable improvement measures in the communities served.
I have had the opportunity to provide nursing expertise in the assessment, design, and implementation of a comprehensive nutrition project for three villages of more than twenty thousand individuals in rural, northwestern Tanzania. I have developed a Malaria Prevention Workshop that provides education and educational materials on malaria prevention and the importance of using mosquito nets using a train the trainer mode. I have worked with villagers to establish an Education Committee and Health Committee in each village, made up of parents, teachers and village officials. The goal of the committees is to develop a stronger partnership with the villages and to exchange ideas. I have brought back lessons learned to promote change at the local level, in Cincinnati.
In January 2008, I traveled to Tanzania in collaboration with the Village Life Outreach Project. A grant from the National Science Foundation was used to perform the necessary research prior to implementation of a Feeding Program, which is part of the Nutrition Project. Through collaborations numerous volunteers of Village Life, I have collected and will continue to collect important longitudinal data; attendance records, standardized test scores and standard nutritional assessments on each child, including WHO-approved anthropometric measurements documenting height, weight, and arm circumference. I have created and lead professional develop seminars for village teachers, so they are able to teach regular nutrition lessons to students. To ensure proper food preparation and hygiene precautions, for rotating volunteer cooks, I have developed food preparation guidelines and a hygiene policy to avoid spreading disease. The hope is this will eventually translate to individual households as the mothers involved in the program carry out these measures at home.
Many efforts in developing countries have not incorporated a multi-barrier strategy, and few past efforts have carefully linked scientific assessment with a community-driven approach. I passionately believe that this effort is substantially unique in scale (20,0000 villagers), design (multi-barrier), and implementation (science plus community). Nurses need to be leaders in implementing large-scale, sustainable projects, such as this one, in settings of extreme poverty.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, I designed a nursing course, at Xavier University, to prepare future nurses to participate in international community development efforts, such as Village Life. This class combines an educational mission (training students) with long-term sustainable community development. During this course Xavier students traveled to Tanzania to teach malaria prevention through workshops to women, performed WHO anthropometric measurements to assess nutritional status of the village children and constructed latrines with Villagers using local materials and design and evaluated educational information for a Sanitation Workshop.
I have gone to different elementary schools and introduced 6th grade girls, that participate in the Girls in Science Program, to ways to analyze how a system works for supplying food and energy to communities, using concept mapping, and, in the process, I have share my nursing work done in Tanzania. I have also worked with the National Junior Honors Society at Rapid Run Middle School, where 80 8th grade students participated in an essay contest with Village Life. Students wrote a 2-3 page essay that addressed the disparities among American Schools and schools in Tanzania. I also helped National Junior Honors Society students to organize a Bike-A-Thon, to raise money for the Village Life’s Bicycle Program, so children their own age will have the opportunity to receive an education. By linking the nutrition and education across continents, it is my goal to raise awareness about issues of malnutrition in children and disparities regarding educational opportunities.
Since I have started traveling and initiating endeavors that generate locally acceptable, sustainable changes in health, locally and abroad, other professions have helped me develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between environment, nursing, person, and health. I have helped other disciplines see that this relationship exists (i.e. Health is what the villager defines it as). Nurses that focus on world health have the opportunity to exemplify outstanding professional practices as they collaborate with other disciplines, apply innovative practice approaches, and seek contribute to health outcomes of communities.