When juniors Mallory Guess and Jess Silva met in 2014, they never imagined they would travel to Ghana together during their senior summer.
The two biology majors bonded through a love of soccer when they both joined the college team their freshmen year. As time progressed, they became classmates.
Now, with one year left in their college careers, they can soon add roommates and travel buddies to the list of bonds they share.
Guess and Silva will depart from the United States on July 31 for a three-week excursion in Ghana — a country on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Silva first found out about the opportunity to travel through a convocation from two seniors who previously went on the trip.
“I went to [seniors] Artur Schneider and Sarah Hendricks’ campus exchange and was really interested in it,” Silva said. “I thought it was really cool that they got to work in a clinic in Africa and experience not only the safari side and the fun side, but they got to make a difference in the clinic and learn a lot about the third-world country and the healthcare there.”
Immediately after the exchange, Silva found Guess and said she was “awestruck” over the experience.
“We said, ‘Oh my gosh, let’s apply,’” Silva said. “We looked up the pricing, and it was reasonable. So we applied and got accepted.”
The trip is sponsored by the Passionate Youth Voluntary Organization, a non-partisan, non-religious, non-profit organization based out of Ghana that specializes in volunteer programs and service projects in the African country.
With eight various programs and projects to choose from, Guess and Silva will participate in the healthcare project. For three weeks, the two will collaborate with local doctors and nurses in the medical field to get a better understanding of the health problems people in Africa face.
“I’ve been in healthcare settings in the U.S., and I’m excited, but also nervous to see what it will be like in a third-world country where healthcare is so much different and much less available,” Guess said. “I’m nervous for what we’ll see but excited to get this awesome hands-on experience.”
Both Guess and Silva have held previous internships at area hospitals and healthcare facilities, leaving them feeling uncertain because of how different the African healthcare system works.
“We’re going to a third-world country where it’s going to be completely different,” Silva said. “I was excited to learn a little bit more about their healthcare. I’m still nervous about going somewhere completely different. It’ll be a culture shock. We’ve never been anywhere like Africa.”
But the trip would not have been possible, Guess said, without the support of Franklin College. With scholarships from both the Office of Global Education and the Branigin Fund, the trip’s expenses were covered.
As for the application process, Guess said she was shocked by how little they were required to submit. Because Passionate Youth Voluntary Organization is strictly a volunteer group and all participants are donating both their own time and financial abilities to take part, they do not ask for much from applicants, she said.
“It’s kind of scary how much of a need is over there for people to help in the medical settings,” Guess said. “It could be scary what we see.”
But despite the nerves, both Silva and Guess said they’re looking forward to experiencing a new country, much different from other countries they’ve explored.
On the weekends, they will have the opportunity to visit orphanages around the country and play with children, go on safaris, surf at a cave and explore local towns.
And while there is some fun included on the trip, it’s not all play. Guess and Silva will work in the hospital Monday through Thursday, shadowing doctors and gaining as much hands-on experience as possible, leaving the opportunity for both women to meet a variety of people.
“If I can somehow make an impact on them and help them find joy and happiness, even while they’re sick or injured—I’m excited to see how Christ will use this,” Guess said. “There are going to be ways for me to tie my faith into it. I’m excited to experience that in a health care setting that I can apply to my future endeavors.”