Four WFNHP RN’s—Libby Gabriel, Kitty Schroeder, Jorja Doherty and Pat Geiger--were among more than two dozen AFT nurses and health professional members who traveled to the Virgin Islands last week on a humanitarian mission to perform vision and hearing screenings for all the public school students on the islands.
The effort was part of AFT's comprehensive recovery assistance that it has been providing since hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the islands last September. The volunteer nurses were hosted by members of the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers and the St. Croix Federation of Teachers.
Kitty Schroeder, a registered nurse at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, pictured performing a hearing test, shared her experience stating, "It is hard to put into words what this trip meant to me. I feel humbled, yet privileged, to help the students of St. Thomas. Their spirit never waivered, despite what they have been through in the last year. Every child had a smile for me on their face with even a hug or two added in. We, as a team, were able to provide vision and hearing testing so that we could help identify students who needed additional intervention, such as glasses or hearing devices. This trip showed me the true spirit of service as a nurse. This opportunity reinforced why I became a nurse and continue to love what I do.”
The week of screening was an emotional roller coaster for the nurses and the children they helped. Although the days were long the stories are endless and unforgettable, such as a little boy who had been held back a grade because of learning difficulties but thanks to this effort, the nurses discovered he couldn't hear and helped him get a hearing aid.
"I've been a union member for a long time, but when I do things like this, it's such a great feeling," said Jorja Doherty, a nurse and retired member from Sheboygan. "It's a feeling of solidarity, and I'm so glad that I'm a part of the union for that reason."
"I was blessed and honored to be a part of this mission," said Libby Gabriel (pictured below), a registered nurse at Aspirus Langlade Hospital in Antigo. "The children were beautiful and thankful we were there, caring about their future. It touched my soul, to be be able to take a week out of my life, and give to those who needed it."