As a nursing student, Haley Melan is no stranger to helping those in need.
So when the opportunity came up to travel to Jamaica on a service trip through her university, she thought it would be a satisfying way to begin her final semester.
“Never have I gone internationally to volunteer, so this was the first time for that,” the Misericordia University senior said. “It was a lot of vulnerable populations; disabled children, the elderly, a boys orphanage. With my nursing background, I found it really interesting to see and help those groups.”
Melan, who graduated from Tunkhannock Area High School in 2016, spent Jan. 3-9 in Jamaica with a small group of students, all of which were coincidentally in health/science majors, too.
The university’s Campus Ministry coordinated the winter break service trip. The students and their two chaperones stayed in a retreat center in Mandeville.
On the first day, the group visited a center run by the nonprofit Mustard Seed Communities. The organization provides 24/7 care to children with disabilities among other services.
“It was cool to see how you can build a relationship with them and see how happy they are to have someone be there with them,” she said. “One time I cried and I’m not a crier.”
The group also visited an elderly care home in Balaclava and kept residents company while helping with personal care needs such as painting their nails.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Everyone keeps asking me how it was and I never know what to say.”
Melan and her group attended Catholic Mass twice during the trip and visited the St. John Bosco Boys Home.
The retreat center had a cook who served authentic Jamaican food, which gave Melan a chance to experience the country’s culture.
The main event, however, was helping to build a home for a family in need with Hope Construction Housing at the Bishop Boyle Outreach & Resource Center.
“We started with the foundation and started literally building from the ground up,” she said.
The most memorable part of the trip was handing a member of the family a set of keys to her new home.
For Melan, it was inspiring to see people who feel grateful for the smallest things in life, and her group hoped to bring this spirit back to Misericordia’s campus.
“Even if it’s not a big act of kindness and charity, we wanted to bring home small acts of kindness we could do every day to make the world a little more happy and a better place,” Melan said.
The trip also reminded her how often people take what they have for granted. Returning home, she plans to look for more local volunteer opportunities and encouraged others to do the same.
After graduation in May, Melan plans to start a new job as a registered nurse
in the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre.