Research, Travel

Nicaragua trip allows students to apply what they’ve learned, help residents

Students in Trevecca’s exercise science and biology programs recently spent spring break in Nicaragua as part of a FLARE project focused on public health.

Dr. Yanice Mendez, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Aaron Hall, assistant professor of exercise science, led a group of nine students and one staff member while they served in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

The students taught seminars on CPR, first aid, nutrition, infectious diseases, injury prevention, and water quality to nurses in the rural community, which is without running water.

To take part in the trip, biology majors were required to take microbiology and anatomy and physiology. Exercise science majors were also were required to take anatomy and physiology. This was to prepare them for the ambience and conditions of Nicaragua.

“They had to know what kind of infectious diseases were prevalent in that area, what healthcare was like over there,” Mendez said. “What foods do they consume? What is their attitude toward vaccinations?”

Haley Baker, a sophomore exercise science major, enjoyed getting to apply what she’s learned  in the classroom on the mission field.

“The coolest part about our trip is that it wasn’t just a mission trip,” Baker said. “We were sharing our knowledge. We spent both semesters preparing and learning.”

The group was hosted by the Mision para Cristo when they arrived in Nicaragua.

The mission digs wells, provides clinics, and grows coffee for the community. The mission also acted as facilitators for the Trevecca students and sponsors and provided housing, transportation and food.

Mendez, born in Puerto Rico and fluent in Spanish, acted as the primary translator for the group.

“I really didn’t do that much work,” she said. “I translated a lot, but the students did most all of the work.”

During the trip, biology majors were led by Mendez, and exercise science majors by Hall.

“Dr. Hall humbly served everybody and was amazing the whole trip,” Mendez said.

One example of that, according to Mendez, was when the team visited the nursing home in Jinotega.

Jenna Bivens, a sophomore exercise science major, experienced firsthand how welcoming the residents are.

“We worked at a nursing home and I didn’t speak Spanish, but the people there kept trying to talk to us and bless us and pray for us anyway,” she said. “That was really beautiful because though we went there to help them, they actually were helping us.”

Mendez experienced the same sense of community.

“I heard so many stories and got so many hugs. A lot of them … had chronic pain but still had joy and were praising God,” she said. “They were well cared for and the employees there really cared.”

Mendez believes the opportunity this FLARE project provided helped in furthering the students journey toward God and their goals.

“This trip meant a lot to the students,” she said. “It was an incredible learning opportunity. A lot of things happened during this trip that reinforced these students’ callings—just acts of God. It takes a lot to impress me but when I saw them talk to and teach those people in Nicaragua, I was blown away. I saw Christ the most through the students and the way they served even through all the challenges, they served with humility and joy.”

By Josh Michel
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695