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Big plans and HOPE for the future

By Michelle Osmond

Reegan Anstey has big plans for her future. But they're not the typical plans of a third year nursing student. This summer, she is travelling to Tanzania, Africa, for a five week volunteer project.

It'll be her first time in a developing country and although she doesn't know what to expect from this trip, she does know it will be the first of many.

Ms. Anstey is volunteering with MUN HOPE (Health Outreach Promotion and Education), a student run non-profit organization that, among other things, partners with Youth Challenge International (YCI) to organize an overseas project like the one Anstey and three other Memorial students are taking part in.

This year's project will focus on HIV and Aids education; eradicating some of the stigma around it, encouraging people to get tested and informing them how to protect themselves.

Ms. Anstey choose MUN HOPE for her first trip because they partner with YCI, a mother organization that takes care of the small details such as housing. This, she said, gives her a sense of security.

She has been volunteering with MUN HOPE since her first year of nursing when she saw a poster recruiting students for another international project and went to a meeting to check it out. She realized that she probably couldn't do the project that year, but got involved anyway; waiting for the day she could apply.

As she explains, these international projects have an asset based approach.
"Rather than just going into a place and, for example, building a well and not showing anyone how to use it or take care of it, our approach is to show people how to keep things going. It's more of a long term approach," she said.

"So, for this project, rather than going in a preaching to youth we're more like peer advocates, teaching people how to teach each other."

Ms. Anstey needs to raise $7,000 to make it happen and although they are fundraising, a lot of it will come out of her own pocket.

The Twillingate native looks a little nervous when asked what she's expecting but she doesn't seem to care.

"I'm expecting it to be very different. I don't even think we'll have running water. I'm told from the groups who went before that 'yeah, you'll be about to get a wash when it rains and it may not rain for a week and a half,'" she said with a laugh.

She's learning basic Swahili, which she feels is important since she'll be staying with a family.

"I think it's going to be a real eye opener and to be working with that many people, most of whom will have HIV and AIDS and especially children born with HIV, it's going to be sad but it'll be good to be able to make a difference by telling them what they can do to take care of themselves and one another."

Ms. Anstey hasn't even left yet and she's already planning her next project in South America next year after graduation. In fact, this is the main reason she choose a medical profession. When asked how much of this work she plans on doing before settling down, she was quick to say, "I don't ever want to! This is all I've ever wanted to do."