Service is an integral part of the PBA experience so many of our students go on mission trips during their years at PBA and beyond. Below are photos from some Nursing students’ experiences during mission trips.

Brent McDermott, Class of 2013, went on an 11 month mission trip around the world with the Amazing Race.  The following explains the picture above in Brent’s own words:

Today we went to a place called Smokey Mountain. When I hear the words “Smokey Mountain” I picture a tall mountain range, where people go to explore. I see trees lining the foot and jagged edges that shoot up into the sky, barely visible due to the clouds and fog that give the mountain its name. A tourist attraction and something that I would want to check out on an off day. That however is not what Smokey Mountain looks like here in the Philippines. Smokey Mountain is home to some of the poorest of the poor. The people who live here, quite literally live on top of and among garbage as far as the eye can see. This place has another name by the locals and the people who live there. Trash Mountain.

The only thing more numerous than the people who live there are the stray dogs, and even more so than them are the shards of broken glass that cover the ground. A sea of broken glass plates, bottles, and jars. There were small rivers of water that was as black as coffee on Monday morning and had a consistency that more resembled sludge than water. We came to feed the children who live there with what was basically fried rice and spam with ketchup. A lot of the kids didn’t even have pants, let alone shoes, so most of them ran around barefoot and at least half naked. Some of the children’s stomachs were distended, an obvious sign of malnutrition. Even with all the trash and hard living conditions around them, each one of them had a smile on their face and ran to greet us when they saw us walking to the hut that the ministry serves them the food in.

We started by walking the surrounding area, inviting the children and parents to come get some food. Everywhere you looked houses where put together with whatever the occupants could find. Spring mattresses as gates, tarps, pallets, and rusted metal pieces as a roof, and just about anything imaginable made up the walls of a typical home here. After we spread the word, we returned to sing some songs and tell the kids a bible story. Then one by one they all came up with little bowls or plastic bags to get a little bit of food, all while smiling from ear to ear.

We went back to the church to eat our lunch and then went back out for one more feeding. If you can believe it, the living conditions of the part of Smokey Mountain were….worse. These residents not only lived on top of the trash, they lived in it. The homes were built completely or dug out of trash. There were even more children here and with even less clothing. A good portion of the kids got in line with their bowls or bags completely naked. And then, it started to rain. A downpour would be a more accurate description. I watched as the puddles of sludge turned into lakes. The kids darted for the awning that we were serving the food from under, but the space was so limited that most of them continued to stand in the rain. Naked and waiting for a small bowl of food. What happened next is something that I don’t think I will ever forget.

As I was passing the bowls back to the kids, a woman comes and sets her daughter under the awning and stepped across the street to the small house store. This little girl couldn’t have been more than 2 years old and, of course, didn’t have a stitch of clothing on her. The rain continued to beat down and more and more kids started to push towards the front. A little boy bumped the 2 year old girl as he was trying to get to shelter. As if in slow motion I watched her stumble, lose her balance, bump her head and then fall into a small trench of the black water. All that was visible of her was her foot and her face that was about so be swallowed as well. I reach down and in one motion, pulled her out, and into my arms. Sludge and black water still dripping down her face and on to my shirt and shorts. She was crying by this point and with the mother preoccupied I took her around the corner and started using the run-off water that was falling from the low hanging metal roofs to clean her up. Then with the help of a local man and a bowl, he began to pour water on her from a bucket. She shortly stopped crying and I examined her head. Praise be to The Lord, there were no cuts or scrapes. She was a little shaken up but ultimately alright. I held her for a few more minutes, her clinging to my neck with no sign of letting go. I then found her mother and gave her over and went to get her some food.

That was probably the scariest moment involving a child that I have witnessed on the race so far. You know it’s funny. After 8 months traveling the world and seeking out to serve the poorest of the poor you get to the point where you think you have seen it all. You think that you’ve seen poverty at it’s worst and that you’ll get used to seeing it. It’s a humbling experience to be proven wrong. Mind-blowing, frustrating, heart-breaking. You are also hit with the realization that no matter how much poverty you see, you never really get used to it and it can be worse.

  • Below, Ana Salguero (2012) and Tina Weiss (2013), in India on a mission trip following graduation in May.