CHAPEL HILL – Health affairs students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who volunteered to provide primary healthcare and public health services to individuals still affected by and recovering from Hurricane Katrina may be denied the opportunity to help.
Organizers for the trip to Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, scheduled for March 9-15, 2008, said they still need $4,800 to meet their bare-bones budget of $12,300. Without the additional funds, the trip will be canceled. Funds pay for a chartered bus for transport to the Gulf Coast, rental cars while on site, gasoline and minimal incidental expenses. Participants pay for lodging and food.
“The need is still great, even though the general public is tired of hearing about Katrina disaster relief,” said Sonda Oppewal, a trip leader and associate dean for community partnerships and practice at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing. “Without the necessary funds for the trip, we won’t be able to contribute to community health assessments, provide badly-needed health promotion interventions or give students an educational and hands-on opportunity to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable populations in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
This year, 17 students and four faculty members from the School of Nursing (SON) will join with 17 students and faculty members from the Schools of Social Work and Public Health and community partners to work on relief efforts.
Volunteers will bring primary healthcare to children and families who need physical and mental health therapy, conduct interventions and assessments in schools, complete door-to-door assessments in one of the poorest rural communities, test water quality for drinking, lead and participate in health promotion and education activities and provide direct support for rebuilding infrastructure.
SON students, community partners and faculty will repair homes, putting up roofs, painting sheetrock and doing carpentry and finish work. The Lutheran Disaster Response in Camp Biloxi will provide referrals from a list of more than 500 homes that still need repairs.
“The nursing students will have the opportunity to develop and hone important communication, assessment and health promotion skills on this trip, in addition to working as a healthcare professional on an interdisciplinary team,” said Oppewal, noting that providing direct clinical care is now more difficult because the expedited process for out-of-state certified nurse practitioners to provide emergency relief is no longer in effect.
In 2005, the SON made a three-year commitment for this service trip. Since then, SON volunteers have provided direct healthcare services to the most vulnerable Hurricane Katrina victims, helped community healthcare clinics reopen and conducted home visits with low-income, rural-area victims. SON faculty members Oppewal, Beth Lamanna, Julee Waldrop and Diane Yorke will participate in and supervise the trip.
To support the Mississippi Gulf Coast Service Trip, please make checks payable to the SON Foundation, Inc. and mail them to: Norma Hawthorne; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing; Campus Box 7460; Chapel Hill, N.C., 27599-7460. Checks must be received before Feb. 12, 2008.