Nursing majors find passion for helping others

Two students from the Student Nurses Association traveled overseas during the winter break to help provide care for those in need.

Photo courtesy of Christina Panellla

Sydney Foo Siam, a sophomore nursing major, traveled to Honduras to work at a clinic in a school community. Siam said that she, along with other volunteers, were stationed at four different medical stations: optometry, dental, OB/GYN and general consultations.

On top of consultations, some of the tasks that students took on were data informatics, packaging and handling prescriptions and teaching children how to brush their teeth, she said.

Foo Siam added that at a different community, the group focused on helping residents have access to cleaner water, since they used the same water to wash their dishes, shower and cook food. “The main symptom amongst the people was diarrhea, and that was because of their poor drinking water,” she said. “Children would drink soda instead, because in a way it was better than drinking water.”

Foo Siam said this experience has made her passionate about her major and helping others. “It made me want to do what I can to help people, especially when they can’t help themselves,” she said.

Christine Panella, a senior nursing major, visited the Maison Fortuné Orphanage in Haiti on the ninth anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that occurred in January 2010.

“My favorite part was the connections I made with the kids. A lot of the kids lack the maternal touch,” Panella said. “Older boys raise the younger boys and older girls raise the younger girls – some of them like to be held, I had three of them just fall asleep in my arms.”

Panella said the orphanage has five groups that visit the orphanage for a week during various times of a year, only providing them five weeks of care and playtime.

Both Panella and Foo Siam said their trips were eye-opening and made them realize how lucky they are to have things that are often taken for granted. “This was a whole other level of poverty I have never seen before,” Panella said.

“This trip has impacted everything in my life. It has changed the way that I look at everything,” Foo Siam said. “We live in such a sheltered bubble, where we allow the smallest inconveniences to ruin our entire day. This trip has not only made me passionate about nursing, but about people, and the simplicity of helping others.”

Foo Siam added that she hopes the Seton Hall community takes note of what they can to do help and not simply just admire her actions.

Marie Foley, dean of the College of Nursing, wrote in an email that philanthropic trips are important for students to truly see the living conditions that others have to deal with and its impact on their health.

“In the College of Nursing we discuss the social, environmental, and cultural determinants of health that affect the clients for whom we care and experiences like this can bring these concepts to life,” she wrote.

Panella said that during the trip, her “nursing brain” was consistently thinking about how she can make an impact upon her arrival back home after having such an experience.

“I want to return once I’m a nurse so I can do things medically for the people of Haiti,” Panella said. “There is so much that we can give, even just giving time, but donating items is super helpful for them.”

She continued, “I saw boys wearing shirts that said ‘big sister’ on them – they don’t care what they’re wearing. The smallest things bring them joy, like kicking a soccer ball around or flipping through American comic books.”

Elise Kerim can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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