People trying to beat the cold for winter traditionally head to Florida or California, but not Samantha Little.
Little, a 2010 graduate of Washington Community High School, recently traveled to the African country of Tanzania with IVHQ, an international volunteer service, to help in a maternity ward.
"Tanzania was very interesting," Little said. "It's very different from here, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to go. It's hectic and very crowded.
"I was in Arusha, which is a pretty big city in the northern area of Tanzania," Little said. "I lived in the outskirts of the city, where my volunteer house was located. You had to walk about 15 minutes down a dirt road to a paved road that took you to your placement. After you get to the paved road, you ride a dala dala, which is like a van, and you take a crowded ride into town."
A junior at Bradley University in the nursing program, Little's trip lasted from Dec. 30 to Jan. 9.
"I have always been interested in Africa because I think it is a really interesting continent with a lot of different countries," Little said. "I started looking online for different organizations and came upon IVHQ, the agency I went through. They partner with Tanzania Volunteer Experience, those are the locals that house us volunteers that come in to volunteer."
The application process for joining the volunteer group was a simple one.
"They had essay questions that I had to answer and basic information," Little said. "It was just basically why you were wanting to volunteer. It wasn't really intensive."
Getting to Tanzania was no easy task in and of itself and the journey included several long flights.
"It was long," Little said of the flights. "I flew from Peoria to Detroit and then from Detroit to Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to Tanzania. It's a lot of getting off and on planes and going through security. The international flights are very, very nice though. They give you all kinds of food and they give you your own TV in front of you so it wasn't the worst thing."
After arriving in the country, Little said the first few days were a period of adjustment.
"When I first arrived, I didn't really know what to expect," Little said. "You can do your research but when you get there it's a whole new experience. I got lucky because a girl on the plane from Amsterdam was in the same program I was.
"Not knowing anyone was really nerve wracking for the first two days before I went to orientation," Little said. "Walking outside and going into town, I didn't really feel at ease because I didn't know much about how tings are there."
Page 2 of 3 - The orientation program that Little took in Tanzania before getting down to volunteer work introduced her to new places and new faces.
"At orientation, they took us into town and showed us how to exchange money, where to shop, good places to eat, not good places to eat and places to stay away from," Little said. "I stayed at a volunteer house and there were 12 other women from all over the world.
"I met people from Australia, China, Wales and London, Bulgaria and all over the place. It was really interesting to get to hear how other people's lives are in other countries."
The time spent in the country after orientation was spent helping bring new lives into the world.
"I volunteered in the maternity clinic there and helped the midwives and doctors deliver babies there," Little said. "It was very intense because the midwives and doctors there don't take the time to comfort the mom, the just let the baby out and move on. It's a lot different from viewing a birth here because they have a lot of women they have to get in and out quickly."
The process of birthing a child in America and in Tanzania are vastly different, Little said, as was the relationship between the mothers and the caregivers.
"The biggest differences are that here we focus on therapeutic communication and developing the nurse-patient relationship and in their healthcare, that's nonexistent from what I saw," Little said. "You come in, deliver the baby and leave. It's quite different in terms of that aspect.
"It's not very sanitary there either. They have a bucket of bleach water that they throw the instruments in, wrap them up and then get on to the next person."
While the process of birth is different in Tanzania, Little said the language barrier was not as difficult to overcome as it might have seemed at first.
"A lot of the people there have pretty basic English," Little said. "It's sometimes hard to understand what they were saying but the doctors are pretty fluent in English so they were able to translate what we were saying and what the nurses were saying."
For a stranger in a strange land, Little said she was relieved with how the locals treated her.
"They were really friendly," Little said of the doctors and nurses. "They were so grateful for us being there. I was worried at first about them maybe being resistant or cautions towards us because we are from places so far away but they really weren't. They welcomed us immediately and told us to come on in."
The greatest part of the trip, Little said, was the work itself.
Page 3 of 3 - "My favorite part of the trip was helping in the clinic," Little said. "There were so many experiences I had that were great. Obviously, helping to deliver a baby is a great experience anywhere but being able to go there and really help, not just observe like here, was great. It was really great to utilize all the nursing skills that I have learned."
The trip, although a life changing experience, is only one step in Little's medical career.
"I originally wanted to be a doctor but I chose nursing because I wanted to be closer to the patients," Little said. "Doctors oversee everything but nurses have the one-on-one connection with patients. They are there all the time and are the ones that report to the doctor.
"I also love medicine because it's constantly changing and we are constantly finding new things."
Now that she is home, Little said that she hopes the future holds a return trip to Tanzania.
"I would love to go back and help that clinic a little more than I am able to now, because of my financial situation with being in school," Little said. "I would like to go back and help expand because they are in dire need of more room. There are so many women coming in to deliver in cramped beds that are very close together. I want to go for much longer than I was last time."