In late winter, following reports that Russia had invaded Ukraine, a call went out from doctors and nurses in desperate need of life-saving medical supplies. Galvanized into action, a group of senior nursing students from Mercy College joined a nationwide effort known as Ukraine Airlift. Their task was to prepare urgently needed supplies for shipment to medical workers in war-torn Ukraine.
The students, along with their faculty advisors, have been making weekly trips to the Yonkers headquarters of the Afya Foundation. Afya, which means “good health” in Swahili, collects donated medical supplies for shipment all over the world to health systems in crisis. As of last week, the Mercy students have helped prepare and pack more than 100 packets of surgical supplies that will be used to help refugees seeking aid and medical providers caring for wounded soldiers and civilians in Ukraine.
Working with the Afya Foundation is not new to Mercy. According to Katherine Dowdle, RN, nursing program clinical instructor, students frequently contribute hands-on support to the humanitarian organization, which serves as a clinical site for community health rotations. “Our students gain so much from being able to address a real and pressing need,” said Patrice Sobecki, RN, clinical site coordinator for the BS in nursing program. “We are so grateful to Afya for providing this opportunity.”
Sobecki and Dowdle worked with Dr. Steve Kelly, a volunteer physician at Afya, to help coordinate the students’ efforts. While the Yonkers facility has many volunteers, said Sobecki, “Nursing students are more familiar with surgical supplies, which saves time and reduces error.”
During the tedious task of sorting and packing, the students kept an eye on news programs reporting on the unfolding drama in Ukraine. “The experience is so valuable because it lets them see how even small efforts can really make a difference,” said Dowdle. “Their eyes have been opened. We hope that this experience will spark in them a lifetime commitment to helping the greater good.”