Stephanie Elise Curtis

Stephanie Elise Curtis

During my time in Honduras, I was most struck by the resourcefulness of the people. The community hospital I volunteered in was short on the most basic supplies such as gloves, needles, hospital gowns and medicine cups. This hardly seemed to faze the nurses; perhaps because they had never witnessed the abundant supplies in U.S. hospitals. To save, they used cloth diapers and washed and reused medicine cups. At the cost of ideal sanitation, they used gloves sparingly and reused needles on the same patient.

Despite the need, the nurses continued to be generous with their patients. Newborns would wear hospital clothes home because the mothers couldn’t afford to buy some of their own. It was difficult to return to the hospitals in Michigan and see the unbelievable waste that occurs with such thoughtlessness.

I was moved by the discovery that almost everything can be reused by someone. Once when I was on a field trip to a neighboring town, I saw a man wearing a University of Michigan cap and couldn’t resist the urge to shout “Go Blue!” The man had no idea what I was talking about, but at least I knew that wolverines give to charity.

A year later and I still can’t make any big purchase without thinking of the value the amount of money could translate to someone in Honduras. That plane ticket could feed a family for two months or those shoes could buy a respiratory machine for a child in a hospital.

Aside from the lessons on the value of money, I learned things that will enrich my entire career. As a nursing student working and living with Spanish-speaking nurses and doctors for five weeks, I drastically improved my medical and conversational Spanish. My dream to become a bilingual nurse is coming true as I begin my first nursing job on a pediatric floor in a community with many Spanish-speaking families here in Michigan. The support I received from the Wallenberg Travel Award will continue to spark positive change in the world with each Spanish-speaking child I treat. I also hope to continue to visit Honduras throughout my career on medical mission trips.

In the past year I have grown a great deal as an extension of my experience. After traveling solo through a developing country, being dependent on a second language, climbing underneath a 140-foot waterfall, helping deliver babies in an outdated foreign hospital and making friends with fellow volunteers from around the world, there isn’t much that I feel I cannot do.

I feel like each person has a duty to use their gifts to better the world around them, and I thank the Wallenberg Foundation for using theirs to better mine.