The door to the makeshift clinic had just opened as a young Guatemalan woman appeared. In her arms was a small child taking strained breaths. She peeked up at the Humber students with wide, curious eyes.

After the young girl was assessed, a quiet conversation between the pediatrician, several students, and the trip director drew the attention of everyone in the room.

Without immediate emergency attention, she wasn’t going to survive.

Over 10 days, students in Humber’s School of Health Sciences conducted health assessments and provided care to almost 300 children living in under-resourced communities in Guatemala.

A Humber student assesses a young girl in Guatemala
Bachelor of Nursing student, Ioana Golubovici, assesses a young girl at the Valle de Los Angeles orphanage.

“You are truly giving us a gift,” Michael Della Penna said to the students on their first day. “You have the most advanced training of any group that visits us.”

Della Penna, the director of the Valle de Los Angeles orphanage, described the reality for children living in his care.

“These kids come from broken homes,” he said. “A lot of them experience physical and sexual abuse. They’re hungry for love.”

While medical assessments and health education were the focus of the trip, it was only part of what the Humber students experienced.

“In class we focus a lot on content and knowledge, which is important,” said Humber nursing professor Frankie Burg-Feret. “But students also need to focus on knowing who they need to become.”

Students give health education to a group of children
Nursing and paramedic students, along with a local translator, provide health education to children in a rural community.

For the second year in a row, Burg-Feret selected a team of students from various health sciences programs at the college. This year, the group consisted of University of New Brunswick/Humber Bachelor of Nursing, Practical Nursing and Paramedic students. They were also accompanied by a pediatrician, a nurse practitioner and several local translators.

The trip was enhanced through Burg-Feret’s inclusion of a component that examined the concept of cultural humility, an idea she believes is perfectly suited for a student immersion experience.

“Cultural humility requires us to look at our own biases and assumptions, to recognize power imbalances and commit to lifelong learning,” she explained. “Being culturally humble means that we accept that we can never know enough about another person because there are so many influences that make each person unique.”

In a written reflection, Bachelor of Nursing student Ioana Golubovici described how, for her, a single moment between the students and the mother of a dying child became the representation of the concept of cultural humility:

“No matter how much I read in preparation for the people and the culture of Guatemala, nothing could have ever prepared me for this. I now realize that no matter how much time I spend there, no matter how fluent I become in the language, no matter how ingrained I become into the community, I will never truly understand the bond that runs between this woman and her God.”

Watch the full-length documentary, Cultural Humility, that follows the students on their inter-professional journey in Guatemala.