Carolina Spring Interdisciplinary Service Learning Project 2009

Day 1 – Service Learning Project 2009 Community Health Survey

On Monday our group which was comprised of 19 students and faculty from the Schools of Nursing, Public Health, Social Work and the Division of Physical Therapy gathered at the United Church of Chapel Hill to embark on our 5 day Service Learning Trip. We all piled into 4 vehicles and drove to Greensboro to the Gateway Center where we had our “just-in- time” training for the 2009 Community Health Survey (CHS). The CHS is a face-to-face health needs survey sponsored by Guilford County Healthy Carolinians and the Guilford County Department of Public Health. The data being collected assesses health status, access to care, social support and the need for service.

After some intense training, an “in-depth” interview between two members of our group, Christine and Travis, lunch and an interview with News 14, we set off to thump the streets dressed in our beautiful Duke blue and gold vest we set off in groups of 3 to interview residents in high risk areas in Greensboro and High Point. Our survey was designed to randomly select households in the highest poverty census tracks of Guilford County. We used handheld computers with GIS overlay to guide us and we entered data directly into the computers.
Most people were very willing to participate and be interviewed. After the interview they continued to share their concerns, frustrations and hopes with us. A major theme echoed by the residents of Greensboro and High Point was the need to “clean up the drugs” off the streets. In hind site, our first day of interviewing was a humbling experience, essentially we were strangers trying to quickly understand the lives of others—we were given the opportunity to be a part of private and personal experiences. We all agreed with the words of one sage resident who commented during her interview, “If all of us are going to be healthy everyone has to have a chance to be healthy.”

After our assignments were completed for the day we drove to beautiful YMCA Camp Weaver. We ate dinner, watched the DVD, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick?, and discussed and reflected on the day. We all turned in fairly early knowing that we would have a very full day of interviews on Tuesday.

Day 2- Service Learning Project 2009 Community Health Survey

After a simple but lovely breakfast at Camp Weaver we set out for our staging area at the Guilford County Cooperative Extension on Burlington Rd. Our group arrived there around 8:30 a.m. where we were met by the staff of the Guilford County Dept. of Public Health. After a brief update and some debriefing, our 10 teams set out in separate cars to continue the interviews we started on Day 1. We interviewed more residents and learned more about their plight, struggles, hopes and fears. At the end of the day we completed a total 86% of the 210 surveys–way to go!!!!!!!!!!

One memorable interview was a mother of 2 small children living on the edge; her husband made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance. She spoke of her frustration of not being able to seek medical care for herself, lack of affordable childcare options and affordable fresh produce. These same concerns were voiced by many in this community.

We headed back to Camp Weaver for dinner and a grand camp fire. We ate smores, sang songs and played games under the clouds and stars at Camp Weaver.

Day 3- Service Learning Project 2009 Community Health Survey

We packed up, ate breakfast, checked out of Camp Weaver and drove to the Gateway Center to receive final instructions for our last 4 hours of interviews. In the end we were able to complete all 210 household surveys. As we reflected on the past 2 ½ days, we were able to identify common themes among the communities: crime, drugs, lack of affordable fresh produce, access to quality healthcare, and the need for more safe parks. By identifying these concerns the Guilford County Department of Public Health together with Healthy Carolinians hopes to develop, implement and tailor programs to address them.

We said good bye to staff of the Guilford County Department of Public Health and headed to Columbia, NC, located in Tyrell County which is the most sparsely populated county in NC. Our first stop was the Cypress Grill in Jamesville, a popular local restaurant and eastern NC landmark that is open a few months of the year when fresh herring is available. We all enjoyed dining at this unique herring shack before heading to the 4H Center in Columbia where we had a large cabin reserved for our group.

Day 4 – Service Learning Trip/Alligator Community

Our group had a mouth-watering breakfast at the 4-H Center and then headed out to the Visitor Center in Columbia where we met our partners from the Conservation Fund, Buck and Justin. We followed them to one of the more than 800 Rosenwald Schools in NC.

This one was located in the Alligator Community of Tyrrell County. There is an amazing history behind the Rosenwald schools. In a nut shell, Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Company financed the building of over 5000 school houses in black communities from the early 1910s into the early 1930s. Today some of these schools are being identified and restored, which was one of our assignments during this trip. Our group gathered into the small, one room Rosenwald school house in which a large blackboard spanned one of the walls, there were several church pews inside and several other dusty nick knacks being stored. Justin and Buck gave us a brief orientation of the school and noted that the school was used to educate the white children of the community–not the black children, which was Rosenwald’s vision. This was confirmed by several older members of the community who told us that the black children were schooled in one of the local churches. I was taken aback by this revelation and it forced me to think of the history and events of that time period.

After the orientation we were given our assignments for the day. Because of the weather forecast the decision was made to first work outside in the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve and then come back to the school house. We left the school house and made our way to the preserve. Our assignment was to clean up the area of trash and CRABPOTS!! These large wire boxes had become tangled up in the brush and forested area after being blown ashore from Albemarle Sound to the shore. At the end of the day we removed enough crab pots and trash to fill 2 large dumpsters. We have pictures!!!

During our cleanup we found 2 voter boxes with sample ballots from the late 1800s and early 1900s!! We also found several books and magazines from that time period. Within an hour the place was cleaned up and made ready for our community meeting and cookout. Our group greeted the residents of Alligator community as they strolled into the school house. We inquired about their experience of rural living, asked about any issues or concerns they had and suggestions for future service projects, while eating hamburgers and hotdogs. I spoke to one resident who was a fisherman by occupation, who recently returned to Alligator community after a few years up North. He said he enjoyed rural living and the outdoors. What I found interesting was that he was able to name everyone who was in the school house that night, a testament to what a close-knit community Alligator is.

Day 5 – Service Leaning Trip / Alligator Community

We started our last day of the trip with another wonderful breakfast at the 4-H Center and made our way to the Visitor Center in Columbia

We were able to do a little shopping before heading to the auditorium to watch “Unnatural Causes”. After the movie we each reflected on our trip. For me, as a graduate nursing student, the week’s events led me to be more aware of the social determinants of health, like employment and housing. The face-to-face surveys allowed me to get a first hand, up close glimpse of the lives of those who are underserved and how their health is being determined, in part, by the social factors around them.

After our reflection we had lunch at one of the local restaurants in Columbia and then headed off for a tour of Somerset Place. Somerset Place is a state historic site that offers a view of antebellum plantation life.

Our tour guide led us through a typical day of plantation life as we walked in the rain between various buildings on the plantation, including a hospital with intriguing and somewhat horrifying instruments and tools. The tour cumulated at the Great House of the planters, which was furnished with original pre-civil war items some of which were donated by the original family.

After the tour we got into our vans and drove back to Chapel Hill. It was an amazing trip of learning, discovery and full of new experiences. We visited places and people we would have never crossed paths with. All in all I can say with confidence that we all had a good time and it was a life changing experience in some way.

Colette Allen, BSN, CCRN

Graduate Nursing Student, FNP Program

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