Missions in Rio Grande Valley - June 4-11, 2021

Launching into the summer, the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON) recently offered a Rio Grande Valley Vaccine mission trip, June 4 – 11, 2021.  Eight LHSON students participated (four undergraduate and four graduate students), as well as two faculty team leaders: Jennifer Jones, DNP, APRN, AGCNS-BC, CCRN-K, Clinical Assistant Professor and Desi Newberry, DNP, MSN-NNP, BSN, Clinical Associate Professor. Caravanning over 9 hours from Dallas down to the Rio Grande, the LHSON team stayed at Melody Lane Christian Renewal Center in Palmview, Texas.

“This year because of COVID-19 we wanted to focus on our state needs related to the pandemic,” said Lori Spies, PhD APRN, FNP-C, FAANP, Associate Professor, Fulbright Scholar and Missions Coordinator, LHSON. “Our mission to the Rio Grande Valley was the only ‘in person’ mission endeavor for our nursing students this summer. Because of the pandemic, the Rio Grande Valley mission shifted its focus to COVID Intervention and our team helped provide education to the refugee population and administered COVID-19 shots in a vaccine clinic.”

“Our school has several years of history working with partners in McAllen and on the border working with local missionaries, church, and community leaders,” said Dr. Jones. “During the Rio Grande Valley mission trip we saw about 3,000 individuals come through the Catholic Charities Center from Saturday through Tuesday. Helping at the Refugee Respite Center we assisted the center volunteers with welcoming new refugees, helping to serve meals, assisted in the personal hygiene area, pharmacy, clothing area, and the students provided safe sleep education for expectant mothers. The local church leaders and missionaries helped coordinate gatherings of church members and those living within the Colonias. We also toured the area to see the border crossings, “the Wall,” and the ICE detention center as well as various local communities. This year in response to the COVID pandemic we provided vaccines with health care providers in the area.”

In order to be eligible for the mission trip, LHSON students had to have completed their first semester of nursing school and provide proof of having received the COVID-19 vaccines. Nursing students were also required to complete an Independent Study on Refugee and Immigrant Health. The one credit hour course was taught by Dr. Spies and included some trip preparation and post trip reflection in addition to content that was covered during the week in the Rio Grande Valley. The purpose of the course was to increase understanding of diverse population health needs, cultural humility, and the specific health and health related needs of refugee and immigrant populations. The cost of the course was covered through the generous support of three donor families.

“Continuing our ministry of Baylor's nursing program, outreach through study and mission abroad is an important pillar of our missions at the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing,” said Linda Plank, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, Dean, LHSON. “Emphasizing servant leadership to influence global healthcare outcomes, students are offered the opportunity to participate in missions and give back to the community with their nursing skills and spiritual heart.”

Sharing their perspectives are three nursing students who participated in the mission trip.

Angela Covarrubias, LHSON graduate student

“I did not know what to expect from this mission trip and had no expectations,” said Angela Covarrubias, LHSON graduate student. “As a nurse practitioner (NP) practicing three hours from the border, I do have illegal immigrants as my population I care for. Surveying the humanitarian crisis myself did strengthen my viewpoint on immigration,” said Covarrubias. “Honestly, I can say the one thing I did come away with from this mission trip is my confidence in the burgeoning nurse generation. The team worked tirelessly and did so with compassion. I would let anyone of these “soon-to-be” nurses and/or NP students provide care for my family or me. I was uplifted during our time together which will help me through the push towards my DNP. This experience also helped me realize the importance of altruism and giving back as a more senior member of the nursing family. I am grateful for this opportunity and feel blessed to have been a part of helping in this humanitarian crisis with the refugees.”

Yvonne Perez, LHSON graduate student

“On the last day of the mission trip, I was able to help with a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for 12 to 16-year-old children that took place in a south Texas middle school, said Yvonne Perez, LHSON graduate student. “I was fortunate to meet the APRN whose responsibility was to oversee all the nurses in the school district and coordinate the vaccination clinic. The second dose vaccination clinic was the last one scheduled for the school district,” said Perez. “According to the CDC (2021), in the United States, as of June 16, 2021, the population of 12-year-old children and older fully vaccinated surpasses 146 million people (44.1% of the population). Overall, my experience with Baylor Global Mission-RGV was a humbling experience. It truly opened my heart and mind to the problem along with the Texas-Mexico border. We are all children of God, and I hope my help changed a few families’ lives.”

Shara Ann Lo Janolo, LHSON undergraduate student
“The mission provided clarity and motived me to pursue my interest in public health nursing,” said Shara Ann Lo Janolo, LHSON undergraduate student. “As a new nurse, I am hoping to start my career in the ED and eventually add public health nursing to my future endeavors. I think our society needs more nurses that would advocate for vulnerable populations and focus on prevention of diseases,” said Lo Janolo. “As an immigrant myself, I am looking forward to dedicating my career to working with vulnerable populations. I am looking forward to making a difference and give back to the community by protecting and serving refugees and immigrants. Overall, this mission exceeded my expectations regarding the great team that I was a part of and numerous patient interactions. I was blessed that our team had unity and each team member worked hard to achieve our goal of helping over 3,000 refugees and immigrants at the Respite Center. With a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, each one of us contributed unique skills and knowledge to the overall success of the mission trip.”