Serving the community seems to be in the DNA of all health care students as future caregivers. But recently the outreach of Minnesota School of Business (MSB) health career students extended far across the globe when they partnered with the central Minnesota MESSAGE Program to help organize and pack medical supplies for distribution in Guatemala.
The MESSAGE Program (Medical/Dental EMS/Fire Supplies Shared Around Globally with Education) secures medical and emergency equipment donations for undeveloped communities across the world. Founded in 2003 by Karin Reichensperger, a St. Cloud native, MESSAGE has distributed everything from wheelchairs, crutches, and scrubs to firefighting equipment, primarily to Guatemala, a country and people very much in need and close to Reichensperger’s heart. Recipients include clinics, fire departments, hospitals and orphanages.
After Karin’s untimely death in 2013, her sister Diane, along with other family members, took over the MESSAGE mission. The shipment MSB students helped organize and pack is the first container to be delivered to Guatemala since Karin died.
Health care management student Melody Hansen contacted the nonprofit to set up the project and experienced a great sense of satisfaction in the effort.
“It felt good to know that we were helping people less fortunate than ourselves and that all the materials being sent are being used for good and not just being put in the trash.”
“It was also a very emotional experience,” she admitted.
Diane Reichensperger witnessed how the service impacted the students. “They see the amount of waste we have here,” she said. “They see how to re-purpose it.
Reuse it. They see how we are changing lives.”
“That’s what Karin always said,” Diane reflected. “We are changing lives. We are changing the quality of their lives.”
As an example, she mentioned, “Crutches are a luxury there. They would just end up in a landfill here.”
The MSB students organized, packed, boxed and wrapped medical supplies to fill shipping container pallets.
Megan Libbesmeier, also a health care management student, said, “Seeing how passionate these people were about carrying on what their sister had started makes me excited to start my career!”
Medical assistant student Mike Dase felt gratified knowing the shipment was drastically needed. “By just that one day of getting so much stuff ready to ship,” he said, “we [may have] saved a lot of lives.”
Deb Berglund and Lisa Smith are advisors for the health careers student association. They both agree that the experience was deeply meaningful for all who volunteered.
“Hearing the story of why this organization is so important to keep running helped students to see what we [in the U.S.] have in a different light, especially knowing that these supplies would be destroyed if not for this program,” said Berglund. “Also, hearing the struggles of this family, especially after the death of the founder, really hit home to all of us that volunteered.”
Smith reflected, “It was a very moving experience hearing from the family after the death of their loved one. While working alongside the family, there were jokes,
laughter, and even a few tears with the memories. They were so grateful for our help, asking us to come back to help in the future.”
The students and faculty all agree, it’s an effort well worth repeating.