Spring Break for nursing students: A medical mission to Mexico

Spring Break for nursing students: A medical mission to Mexico

Graduate nursing student Liz Harrington and student at La Candelaria school

Graduate nursing student Liz Harrington and student at La Candelaria school

A chance encounter a couple of years ago between a Port Richmond woman from Mexico and two Wagner College nurses led to a medical mission earlier this month over Spring Break to a remote mountain hamlet, La Candelaria, on the southern Baja Peninsula.

“I was working with nursing student Liz Harrington at El Centro in Port Richmond on a health promotion and education project,” recalled Wagner College nursing professor Nancy Cherofsky. “A woman we met at El Centro, Maria, told us about the tiny village she came from in Mexico, and the name stuck with me: La Candelaria.

“Later that year I visited my brother, a retired New York City firefighter, at his condo in Cabo San Lucas, on the southern tip of Baja California. He had worked with local firefighters to acquire used equipment from the San Diego fire department, and he had gotten to know the area pretty well — including this little village of La Candelaria.

“ ‘It’s right up that mountain,’ he told me, pointing into the hills north of Cabo. And that’s how the Wagner nursing visit began,” Cherofsky said.

Over their Spring Break, 16 graduate nursing students joined Cherofsky on a medical mission to Baja California Sur. Assisted by Cabo San Lucas fire chief Juan Antonio Carbajal Figueroa, they made their way from the CSL resort town up the 26-kilometer dirt track to the mountaintop settlement of La Candelaria, population 128. The hamlet has a couple dozen houses, a church, a boarding school with about 100 residents, and a small health clinic staffed during emergencies by “bomberos” (firefighters) from Cabo.

La Candelaria is so remote that it is “off the grid” with no phone service and no electricity. Power had been supplied to the school and the adjacent health clinic by a generator — but when Hurricane Odile made landfall on Baja California last September, it knocked the generator out of service. A single car battery, recharged from village vehicles or visiting fire engines, provided enough power so that students could do their homework at night — but only for one hour.

“Before we left for Baja, the nursing students had raised money for medical supplies — and four new batteries so the students could do their homework throughout the evening,” Cherofsky said.

During their visit, Wagner nursing students provided needed health care to individuals — many babies, children and women — who have no access to regular health care. The students also taught health classes to over 95 students, ages 3 to 17, in La Candelaria.

And when they came back down the mountain to Cabo San Lucas, the graduate students visited a homeless shelter, where they provided health care to many children, and a senior center with over 200 elders.

“It was a busy but sincerely rewarding experience for all of us,” said Cherofsky. “Helping people is addicting!”

Wagner College’s Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing was presented with several awards from local officials on this trip for its community work.

And, below, watch video footage of the Wagner College nursing school mission to La Candelaria, shot by Lupillo Times videographer Jose Ortiz:

“Wagner nursing students’ medical mission to La Candelaria, Mexico” — Wagner College, with the support of the Shamrock Language Institute and the Cabo San Lucas “Bomberos” (Fire Department), carried out a two-day medical mission in La Candelaria, Baja California Sur. (Documentation video by Jose Ortiz posted March 20, 2015, on the Lupillo Times website at lupillotimes.wordpress.com)