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Bryant & Stratton College Nursing Student Helps Keep the Heart of Jamaica Healthy

Money was tight. Full-time work coupled with a full class load meant little time off to take. It was not a good idea.

But at some point, Leah Doperalski and her friend decided to just go for it.image5

And the pair headed to the steep mountains of Jamaica for a week with a non-profit troupe of medical volunteers.

That was the moment that changed Doperalski’s life.

“I fell in love with it,” she said of the quiet village of Hagley Gap, which teeters at the top of the island destination amid the Blue Mountains. While tourists fill the beaches below, villagers here live an anachronistic life, without cars, running water or medical facilities.

As a second semester nursing student at Bryant & Stratton College’s Wisconsin campus, Doperalski was already able to give the villagers more medical attention than they had ever received.

“We go house to house, we do blood pressure screenings, zika virus education … we’re really huge on education in the community,” she said. “We find people living in the village who haven’t seen anyone in a long time. There are two clinics but they are too far to walk. It’s nice for us to go so they can have a yearly checkup.”

Doperalski traveled as a volunteer for Blue Mountain Project. The non-profit brings medical care to the villages in the region but also supports the local schools by providing tutors, computer labs and library materials. In addition, the group is working to establish a chamber of commerce and grow the local craft industry in hopes of re-routing some of the tourist flow, and income, to the Blue Mountain villages.

After Doperalski returned from the region, she was hooked. She organized a trip in January of 2016 and escorted 18 Bryant & Stratton students to the Blue Mountains.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for the community and the students got to have this service on their resume.”

Students stay on the island for one week, and live with host families. Fundraising is a key component of the preparation. Volunteers pay $99 per day for room and board (much of which goes to the host family) as well as their flight.

Once there, first year nursing students are partnered with older students as they tend to the villagers.

“It’s good experience to get down there and practice what we are learning,” Doperalski said. “It’s a good learning experience, a good bonding experience, it’s good for Bryant and Stratton. I love it.”

Doperalski is putting together a trip to the Blue Mountains for Bryant & Stratton students in January, 2017. Interested in going? Contact her at: ldoperalski91@gmail.com

To learn more about the Blue Mountain Project, please visit www.bluemountainproject.org

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