Shopping list: large backpack, hiking pants, sandals and malaria pills.
These are some of the items necessary for Mercer students and faculty members participating in Mercer On Mission programs this summer as they work on various projects in developing countries.
“The overall objective for Mercer On Mission is to provide an opportunity for our students to explore the world, their vocational calling, their interests and to — in the process of those two things — discover more about themselves,” said Craig McMahan, the founder and director of the Mercer On Mission program.
This year over 200 students will be traveling to 12 different countries, and McMahan is projecting that these numbers will be even larger next year. Groups began leaving this Saturday.
Each year, the number of participants in the program has increased about 10 percent, McMahan said.
With so many different service projects, students — regardless of credit hour classification or major — have the opportunity to serve in the program.
This year, students in Cambodia and Honduras will be doing medical clinics while students in Vietnam will be working with prostheses.
Students in South Korea will be helping North Korean refugees by teaching them English as well as basic robotics and computer skills.
In Ecuador, three teams — chemists, economists and medical interpreters — will be sent to help with pollution, productivity and the language barriers in the country.
In Madagascar, students will be working to provide residents with clean water.
“We’re talking to people of the villages and talking about their water situation and trying to find ways to get clean and better water,” said Liz Hopkins, a sophomore at Mercer who is participating in the Mercer On Mission trip to Madagascar.
[pullquote speaker="Craig McMahan" photo="19417" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The overall objective for Mercer On Mission is to provide an opportunity for our students to explore the world, their vocational calling, their interests and to — in the process of those two things — discover more about themselves.[/pullquote]
Hopkins is an industrial engineer major with a minor in mathematics with aspirations to work as a hospital management engineer. She said this trip will prepare her for a career in healthcare, Hopkins said.
“This project will help because it’s kind of like an internship, but also service work so it will broaden my understanding of the world and engineering,” Hopkins said.
She will benefit not only academically but culturally.
“I am hoping to learn about different cultures, and I want to get a lot of experience of helping people and just be a better person,” Hopkins said.
The program focuses on going to countries that specifically need their help.
“We really work very diligently at trying to match what we can offer with real needs and real opportunities in the community that we’re going to,” McMahan said.
In other words, the students won’t be building water wells in countries that don’t need them, McMahan said.
The people of the developing country aren't the only ones benefiting from the program.
“Mercer On Mission provides a way for [Mercer students] to travel and to become engaged in understanding the global and engaging in helping in the global work, making it better place,” McMahan said. “And the university pays for your travel.”
The medical clinic group heading to Honduras left Saturday.
“We landed in Tegucigalpa around 11:30 Honduras time, so it's two hours behind. We had some lunch in the airport, kinda learning the money system a little,” Nicole Gentile said in a Facebook message. “Then we took a bus to Lufussa, which is the electric company that is housing us during our trip. The coolest part was during the bus ride, we took a pit stop at a zoo and walked around and saw lots of really cool animals!”
Gentile said the group began preparing for their work the next day.
“We went to a church [Sunday] and got to experience that part of their culture, and it was all in Spanish, which was really cool to see,” she said. “[Sunday was also] a prep day, which means getting together all of the medications and supplies that we will need for the clinic this week.”
Monday was the first day of clinics, and the group expected to see 200 patients, Gentile said. But the team got another surprise, according to their blog.
"I had the chance to translate/interpret on the Honduran news! A group of men from a local Choluteca news station came to interview a few of the students on our team," Gentile wrote. "I had the privilege (a very NERVOUS one) of translating for Sidney and Dr. House as we were all asked questions about our team and what kind of help we were bringing to the people. It was a very interesting experience and one that I think ultimately helped me get over my fear of speaking Spanish to other people."
Interested in a Mercer On Mission program? Visit the website at https://mom.mercer.edu/.