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April 7, 2014

Snippets from Spring Break!

For many of us at Clemson FIMRC, Spring Break 2014 was a whirlwind adventure!  12 students (13, including one friend from Georgia Tech) traveled to FIMRC’s project site in the Dominican Republic, while 15 others traveled to Nicaragua. During their 8-day stint in Restauración and Las Salinas, each team put college work on hold—opting to take crash courses in local culture, cuisine, and language instead—and helped foster FIMRC’s vision of implementing preventative health education to underprivileged families. Though ongoing projects vary with each program location, both teams worked alongside those in the community to make long-lasting changes and improve health from the inside out.

Instead of the standard trip recap, we’ve decided to ask these returned globe-trotters to write a few sentences about their experience in their respective countries and communities! Here’s what they have to say…

I went to Limon, Nicaragua. This experience really made me appreciate what we take for granted in the U.S. like air conditioning and running water in houses. My favorite part was when we got the opportunity to do therapy with the kids.” —Alaina Belser, Project Limón

Alaina with her patient in physical therapy.

Alaina with her patient in physical therapy.

The Nicaragua team busy at work!

The Nicaragua team busy at work!


For Spring Break I was given the opportunity to visit and work in the community of Las Salinas, Nicaragua at FIMRC’s project site: Limon. We spent our first two nights in the city of Grenada where we went to the market, hiked the daunting inactive volcano of Mombacho, zip-lined and made some wonderful friends.

Next, we were taken to a more permanent residence at the Surf Sanctuary which was only a short walk from the beach, included a pool, grapefruit and coconut trees and few of the sweetest pet boxers I’ve ever met. Monday through Friday of that week we started to work in FIMRC’s clinic which is directly next to the local health post. We were given the opportunity to shadow the pediatrician, take the children’s vitals, go into the community for prenatal and diabetic visits, paint a mural on the health post wall, give health talks in the school and administered oral vitamins while our nurse, Martita, gave vaccinations. With our time off we went to an assortment of different places for dinner, went to the beach, explored the gorgeous Mag Rock and utilized arguably the comfiest hammocks in the world at the Surf Sanctuary.

This week gave me some of the best experiences, stories and memories that I will always collectively cherish, but there are a few moments that really stuck out to me. The first occurred when I was one of the seven people in our group of fifteen that was able to attend and work physical therapy. I got the opportunity to work with the sweetest little girl named Scarlett who was diagnosed as having “weak hips”, for lack of a better term and was also a little slow in other aspects of developmental and cognitive growth. We began with rubbing her legs, administered a few leg exercises and helped her walk around by allowing her to put around a yellow, plastic cart. She was simply the sweetest little girl, that got a chuckle out of Daniel’s large curly fro and being tossed around in the air. It was so much fun we began to forget that this little girl was even in therapy and that we were there actually to do “work”. Additionally, it was heartwarming to see the interaction between the mothers and their children during therapy, their patience, love and kindness toward their children was simply something to marvel at.

Another great moment came from when the pediatrician was at FIMRC on wednesday afternoon. I met a little girl named Valentina who was painfully shy and was nervous to participate in activities being held by a bunch of strange gringos. She sat alone at a table coloring a picture of Hello Kitty so I just sat down beside her and started coloring too, after a few minutes I could tell she as starting to relax so we started talking, and it must be said that this little girl has patience exceeding her years because my Spanish is not very good. Throughout the next hour we played back and forth while she hid behind doors in a funny, complex game of tag and smiled harder than I’d seen her smile all day. There’s something so heartwarming about getting to that level with a child and seeing them start to let loose and enjoy themselves. Valentina was an absolute joy and one of the most intelligent, playful and quite frankly, the best colorer I’d ever seen. I cannot be more thankful and humbled by all of the people I met in Nicaragua and cant wait to go back.” —Samantha Cuff, Project Limón

Samantha with little Scarlett!

Samantha with little Scarlett!

Samantha and Valentina.

Samantha and Valentina.

The trip to the Nicaragua FIMRC clinic was the most life changing experience of my life! The people, the food, and the places are sure to amaze and I highly suggest this trip to anyone looking into World Health promotion. I feel like I made an impact on the community and hope to return one day to see it flourishing!”

—Libby Zanin, Project Limón

The Nicaragua team at Project Limón!

The Nicaragua team at Project Limón!

Watching the sunrise at Nicaragua.

Watching the sunrise at Nicaragua.

This was my first trip with FIMRC, actually, my first trip without my parents ever and my second time out of the country. So I was pretty excited and nervous. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much. People had been talking about last years trip for so long and they kept talking about how awesome it was. I was really jealous and wanted to be in on all of the stories and inside jokes but also, I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. It did. I now completely understand how you could talk about this trip for hours and it still would not convey how great the trip was. We got to put on a health fair and a charla in Haiti but my favorite part was just the down time when we got to hang out with the kids in town. My Spanish is not the best, so I loved the little girls who just wanted to hold your hand and braid your hair. I absolutely loved watching everyone interact though. While I couldn’t understand what they were saying all the time, I could understand that everyone was having fun with each other. Their whole concept of community was so different than what I was used to. Everyone just showed up at peoples houses and started hanging out, and women would let total strangers hold their babies. I was obsessed. The happiness, love and joy I saw in the Dominican Republic really changed the way I feel about others and I try everyday to make my life a little slice of DR. this trip changed my life and I am so happy that I got to go with such an awesome group of people.” —Colleen Cooper, Project Restauración

Colleen with fellow baseball aficionados at the local "Play."

Colleen with fellow baseball aficionados at the local “Play.”

If I wouldn’t have joined FIMRC during my freshman year, my college career would not have been the same.  Prior to my first FIMRC trip, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, but afterward it became clear that I wanted to work in rural health.  FIMRC has allowed me to help people abroad as well as in my local community.  Not only has the organization given me these opportunities, but I have also met some of my best friends through FIMRC.  The experiences, memories, and relationships that I have gained through this organization will last a lifetime.” —Daniel Grant, Project Restauración

Daniel delivering a health charla in Haitian creole.

Daniel delivering a health charla in Haitian creole.

Coming back to Restauracion for the second time offered an incredible opportunity to see the change that has taken place in the community over the course of the year. I was inspired by the way the locals have embraced FIMRC and its mission and have developed a passion for health and education.” —Dana Levanthal, Project Restauración

Kendall and Dana stationed at their nutrition booth for the health fair in El Carrizal.

Kendall and Dana stationed at their nutrition booth for the health fair in El Carrizal.

Dana teaching healthy nutrition at the health fair in El Carrizal.

Dana teaching healthy nutrition at the health fair in El Carrizal.

Sometimes experiences will come along that will change your life.. my final undergrad FIMRC medical mission trip was definitely one of these experiences. Everything about the trip- the scenery, the community, the FIMRC staff, the kids, the Clemson+Matt group- was extraordinary. The whole experience reminded me that no matter what we go through, love is always greater. I am so incredibly grateful for the experience and the relationships I have made; they have made a wonderfully positive impact on my life.” —Emilie Pinto, Project Restauración

Emilie and local children getting some camera action.

Emilie and local children getting some camera action.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to go back to Restauracion for a second year. The progress that has been made in such a short amount of time is truly astounding and is a testament to all the work that FIMRC and the people of Restauracion have done. I’m proud to be part of an organization that creates sustainable communities and inspires people to create a better lives for themselves!”

—Megan Schmalz, Project Restauración

Megan playing with one of the girls of Restauración.

Megan with the girls of Restauración.

Traveling back to the Dominican-Republic site one year later was absolutely incredible. The progress that Joe and his team have made in Restauración blew us away and being welcomed by the same little kids really made the experience even more special.” —Jim Sullivan, Project Restauración

Jim and Matt joining the locals in a practice session at the local "Play."

Jim and Matt joining the locals in a practice session at the local “Play.”


Regardless of prior experience, each volunteer walked away from their trip with something invaluable, be it a simple lesson in gratitude, a new look at the world, a reshaped life goal, or even the start of a new career path. The impact these trips have on each volunteer cannot be overstated. A warm thank you goes out to FIMRC, and to each volunteer who invested their time to travel, learn, and grow. Finally, we’d like to give a special thanks to all the volunteers who took the time to write down their testimonials—we loved reading them!

Joe South and Nicole both seem to approve!

Joe South (field operations manager) and Nicole Cooper (Clemson FIMRC President) both seem to approve!


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