Water rolled down the back of a Guyanese man as he took a shower. The cool sensation provided comfort, but comfort soon diminished as heat scorched his skin.
A family member tried to set this man on fire because he was HIV positive, said Shanalee Gallimore, a graduate biology student from West Palm Beach. She met him on one of her trips to Guyana.
Gallimore is a founding member of the Florida A&M chapter of Health and Education Relief for Guyana, Inc. (HERG). She and a friend established the chapter in 2008 after being exposed to the Florida State University chapter.
HERG offers volunteer opportunities for FAMU students of all majors.
“As stated in our mission statement, FAMU provides ‘excellence with caring,'” said Henrietta Fasanya, a third-year biology and Spanish double major from Tallahassee. “HERG sets forth a platform for students to excel not only academically but also as an individual.”
The FAMU chapter of HERG provides service locally and internationally. In the Tallahassee area, members volunteer at health clinics, HIV/AIDS walks, and Camp Boggy Creek. The camp is a refuge for kids with various illnesses.
In March, members from HERG-FAMU and HERG-FSU will travel on a mission trip to Guyana. The members, accompanied by physicians, will go to Georgetown, Linden, Berbice and other areas to provide educational resources and assist with healthcare services.
Loren Ellis, 21, a senior biology student from Dothan, Ala. and the president of HERG-FAMU, said that students help by gathering patient information, “checking blood pressure and blood sugar, assigning numbers,” keeping order in the clinic, and helping physicians when needed.
The task may seem daunting, but Ellis assures that while the trips most benefit future health professionals, anyone can help because “All necessary skills are taught to the students. No previous knowledge is required.”
HERG provides aid in time of need. But unlike many relief efforts, HERG is not temporary.
“HERG has been in existence for 10 years,” Jennifer Triplett, a molecular biology graduate student from Rochester, N.Y. and vice president of HERG-FAMU, said. “So, HERG isn’t in Guyana due to an event. HERG is in Guyana simply because the need is there.”
Students outside of HERG-FAMU have even witnessed the impact. Russell Motley, a 2010 graduate of the master’s program of journalism and now primary news anchor at WTXL ABC 27 Tallahassee, made a documentary on HERG named “Healing in the Land of Many Waters.”
Motley said that his experience in Guyana was “awesome” and “life-changing” because it allowed him to see people without healthcare and the option of doctor visits smile when HERG comes.
Students continue to join for that experience and it is what sustains them.