Accompanied by several professionals, nearly 20 Chadron State College health professions students flew out of Denver early Thursday morning en route to Falmouth, Jamaica, on a medical mission trip.
The trip was organized by Loretta Belknap, who lives in the Cottonwood Creek area in southern Dawes County and teaches a basic nursing assistant course at Chadron State in cooperation with Western Nebraska Community College two days a week. She has been on a similar trip to Jamaica.
A Scottsbluff dentist, Dr. Todd Pieper, a dental hygienist and two assistants from his office will leave Saturday. Chadron physician Kristi Johnson, whose son, Calen, is graduating from Chadron High School on Saturday, and two students who have relatives also graduating from high school this weekend will make the flight Sunday.
Besides Belknap, three other nurses, including her daughter, are on the trip.
Also making the trip is the Rev. Jeri Soens, former pastor of the United Methodist Church in Hemingford and interim pastor of the Methodist Church in Chadron for a few months earlier this year. The group will return on May 19.
Johnson said the trip will be an eye-opener for the college students. She said none of them has previously been on a mission trip and many of them had never flown in an airplane.
She added that the students gathered to pray prior before leaving Chadron. They took along about 250 Bibles that will be offered to patients at the clinic. The Bibles were donated by members of Gideons International and Open Door Church south of Chadron.
Falmouth is an important port city along Jamaica’s northern coast. The clinic and adjacent hospital where the western Nebraska group will work was founded by a Nebraska doctor and his wife, Johnson said.
Some of the people who come to the clinic live in the surrounding hills and mountains and will get up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and walk to the clinic, Johnson said. She added that many of them will have to wait in line for hours before they can be seen.
Johnson added that she “recruited” a medical student from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha to assist her with the most severe cases that the group will see. The CSC students will also be involved in helping the patients. Each of the students had to pay his or her own expenses of about $1,500 to take the trip.
The Chadron Community Hospital has donated most of the medicines that will be used.
—Con Marshall, CSC Information Services
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