Fourteen Southern Illinois University Edwardsville undergraduates and two public health faculty will travel to Puerto Rico to aid in recovery efforts after the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Maria.
The travel study service trip will take place in Yabucoa from December 11-23. Students studying public health, psychology and more will spend five days working with All Hands and Hearts, a nonprofit that partners with local communities to respond to disasters.
“Students will have the opportunity to be immersed in a different culture, while giving back to a community in need and gaining practical experience as it relates to emergency preparedness and response,” said Michelle Cathorall, DrPH, MPH, assistant professor and program director of public health in the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior’s Department of Applied Health.
Leading the students on the trip will be Cathorall and Alice Ma, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of public health. Students will help community members and other volunteers rebuild the community by cleaning up debris, salvaging items and disposing of unusable debris, and mucking out homes as necessary. Students may also help repair homes and schools, learning while working with community members.
“Emergency preparedness is a critical area of public health, because when there is an emergency, external support can take days or weeks to arrive,” Cathorall explained. “Communities must have plans in place regarding their immediate response to emergencies until assistance arrives.
“This trip is especially important for public health students, because it offers them an opportunity to interact and work with diverse populations. We will be responding to areas that did not have emergency plans in place, so students will see first-hand the impact a lack of public health planning can have on people and their communities.”
Photo: SIUE public health faculty members Drs. Michelle Cathorall and Alice Ma will lead a travel study service trip to Puerto Rico in December.