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Making a difference in the world

posted: Tue, Oct 18th, 2016

Alainie Costas with some new friends in West Africa

Alainie Costas, a Massachusetts nurse, recently showed MOMS students the rewards of volunteerism and the true impact that people can have on others. 

Ms. Costas spent an entire school day speaking to students via Skype about her experiences volunteering on Mercy Ships – hospital ships that provide free medical care to developing countries. On three separate tours lasting several months each, she treated patients in the West African countries of Benin, Togo, and Sierra Leon. Ms. Costas described in detail what life is like in these poverty-stricken nations and her service on the medical teams that provided orthopedic, reconstructive, and general surgeries.

MOMS library media specialist David Eisenberg, a friend of Ms. Costas, arranged the presentations and created a sample lesson plan for teachers to use. All seventh grade science classes attended, as well as G&T and character education classes. At the end of the presentations, students asked questions about Ms. Costas' work, the types of medical care provided on the ships, and about the living conditions of the countries she visited. 

"The discussions provided students with the opportunity to see what a difference they themselves could make in the world with the right education," said Mr. Eisenberg. "So much good can be done in the world if people bring their skills and passions to those who need it most."

Parts of the presentations tugged on the heart strings, both for students and staff. Particularly affecting were the before and after photographs of patients treated for facial and bodily abnormalities such as club feet, tumors, and cleft lips and palates. The patients, many of whom had suffered from their conditions for decades, saw their lives radically transformed as a result of their procedures.

"I just thought it was amazing for her to volunteer so much of her time and do this and change lives," said eighth-grader Hailey Carlo. "She's a real life hero."

Ms. Costas' presentations and photographs also provided a window into the Third World. Since many of those treated by Mercy Ships are children, the MOMS students saw just how much their lives differ from the children in much of Africa. 

"It was hard seeing kids growing up in such poverty and without medical care and all the things we have," Hailey said. "It makes you aware of how lucky you are. I'm safe, I have clothes, I have a nice home... All these things that we take for granted these kids dream of." 

According to the Mercy Ships website, the organization has helped 2.5 million people in nearly 600 ports of call.

Ms. Costas most recently spent six months volunteering as a nursing instructor for a new nursing school located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India.

On a day to be evaluated for possible treatment, hundreds of people travel to the ports of call of the hospital ships

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