MACON – Mercer On Mission, the University’s unique blend of study abroad and service learning, is set to deploy 181 students and 20 faculty members to 11 sites in South America, Asia and Africa during the months of May through August.
This summer’s activities include the initiative’s 10th visit to Vietnam, during which participants expect to fit their 5,000th patient with the Universal Socket Prosthetic developed and patented by Dr. Ha Vo, associate professor of biomedical engineering.
A team of 23 biomedical engineering students, two graduate assistants and four faculty members will leave for southern Vietnam on June 1 to work at clinics provided for permanent use by the Vietnamese government in the cities of Ben Tre, Can Tho and Hau Giang. During the three-week trip, the team expects to fit nearly 500 amputees and see more than 2,000 orthopedic patients.
Thanks to new partnerships and funding, as well as government support, Mercer officials are working to expand the program in order to fit as many as 10,000 amputees each year.
“Over the course of our program in Vietnam, we have seen the scope and quality of our work increase immensely. The very first year we fit 38 patients with prostheses; this year we anticipate fitting over 500 patients,” said Dr. Craig McMahan, dean of chapel and University minister, who oversees Mercer On Mission.
“The impact of our work is immediate and incredible. An amputee may hobble into the clinic on a very primitive, handmade prosthetic, or limp in on crutches, or even crawl in on hands and knees. The experience of fitting them with a prosthetic that allows them to walk out with a perfect gait and carry on a normal life is nothing short of amazing. On a number of occasions, our patients have remarked that getting the Mercer prosthetic is a life-changing opportunity for them.”
This summer’s Mercer On Mission sites also include:
- Dr. Michelle Vaughn and Dr. Martha Lee Child from the Tift College of Education will lead 11 students to Belize to work with local teachers and students on improving teaching skills and educational outcomes.
- Dr. William Bina III and Gayle Bina from the School of Medicine will lead 22 students to Cambodia and 23 students to Honduras to set up medical clinics.
- Randall Harshbarger from the College of Liberal Arts and Dr. Michael MacCarthy from the School of Engineering will lead 14 students to Madagascar to work on clean water projects, including replacing components in water pumps that are causing toxic levels of lead exposure.
- Dr. Etienne Musonera and Dr. Gerry Mills from the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics will lead 12 students to Rwanda to continue work with widows and orphans of the 1994 genocide to help them develop small businesses to provide for their families.
- Dr. Eimad Houry and Dr. Mary Alice Morgan from the College of Liberal Arts will lead 12 students to South Africa to provide racial tolerance and anti-bullying programs to three segregated schools.
- Dr. Sinjae Hyun from the School of Engineering will lead 19 students to South Korea to conduct English classes and robotics training for North Korean refugees who live near the international headquarters for Samsung.
- Dr. Natalie Bourdon and Dr. Amy Nichols-Belo from the College of Liberal Arts will lead 11 students to Tanzania to partner with Dutch-run non-governmental organization Upendo Daima, which provides shelter, counseling and rehabilitation for former street children. The team will develop health modules and provide tutoring.
- Dr. David Ritchie from the School of Law and Dr. Bridget Trogden from the College of Liberal Arts will lead 15 students to Peru to work toward United Nations sustainability goals, including installing solar-powered lights.
- Dr. Adam Kiefer and Dr. Clara Mengolini from the College of Liberal Arts and Dr. Antonio Saravia from the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics will lead 19 students to Ecuador to work with artisanal gold miners to reduce their exposure to toxic levels of mercury and with coffee growers to improve their production, processing and distribution.
Begun in 2007, Mercer On Mission provides life-changing experiences for students through a combination of academic instruction, cultural immersion, meaningful service and spiritual reflection. To date, more than 1,000 students have participated in trips to nearly 100 sites in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and other areas of the world.