Spring break trip contributes to efforts to alleviate malnutrition in Honduras

Healthy Niños -- Waiting at airport

A group of students waits at John F. Kennedy International Airport for their flight to Honduras to take part in a spring break service learning trip through Healthy Niños Honduras. The students—from Altoona, Schuylkill and University Park campuses—collected 17 suitcases full of donated personal items to distribute to families in the rural villages they visited.

Credit: Penn State College of Nursing

Thirteen undergraduate students at the Altoona, Schuylkill and University Park campuses observed National Nutrition Month in a fitting way: traveling to Honduras for a spring break service learning trip through Healthy Niños Honduras, a Pennsylvania-based organization that focuses on helping children with malnutrition.

For five nursing students, the program was an embedded international travel component for the NURS 499 course, Foreign Study. Eight students in CIVCM 211N (Foundations of Civic and Community Engagement) also made the trip, accompanied by Marianne Adam, coordinator of the Nursing program at Penn State Schuylkill, and Tina Rose, coordinator of career services at Schuylkill.

“Immersion in a multicultural experience expands horizons, informs practice, and enhances understanding of our role in global citizenship,” said Adam. “These trips can be résumé builders, but they also give students a greater understanding of what happens outside the United States.”

The students took part in medical and construction brigades, distributing medications and helping to pour cement floors in homes to decrease the risk of intestinal parasites and respiratory conditions. “Cement floors help reduce sanitation and health issues that arise from the soil in the dirt floors,” Rose explained.

To reach the rural villages they served, the brigade drove up to two hours on unpaved roads. Once there, they served children as young as 4 months. Many were identified as malnourished or stunted (failing to develop properly) and referred to the Healthy Niños Nutritional Rehabilitation Center for restorative care.

“The fact is that malnutrition is a vicious cycle,” Rose added. “The goal of Healthy Niños is to help these families and break that cycle.”

Students at the three campuses collected 17 suitcases full of donated items—including hygiene products, school supplies, clothing, and toys for all ages—to distribute in the communities they visited. One teacher was “so thankful for the school supplies that she almost cried,” said Rose. “The Honduran people are so appreciative of anything we offer them. They have so little, and yet they are so happy.”

Based in East Greenville, Pennsylvania, Healthy Niños Honduras partners with initiatives and programs that offer healthy alternatives, as well as hope for a sustainable future, to children and communities in Honduras that are impacted by adverse environments.