Mississippi College

MC Students Experience Learning Beyond the Classroom

September 26, 2007

Mississippi College students are volunteering as translators in a new ministry serving the medical needs of low-income people, including many Hispanics lacking basic English-speaking skills.

Dozens of people, from teens to seniors unable to afford health insurance, are getting help at the Caring Hands ministry based at First Baptist Church of Madison.

Local physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, Christian counselors, students and others are volunteering their services to make Caring Hands work one day a month to reach out to the needy.

"It makes you feel good to know what we have," said Debbie Norris, MC's graduate school dean who serves on the ministry's board. "Every person gets Christian counseling and they get care."

Norris got involved after the Madison church's pastor, the Rev. John Temple, created the ministry and named her to the board. Temple has since left to lead a church in Meridian, but the group continues to flourish.

The medical clinic at the Madison church is open from 4-8 p.m. one Thursday each month and serves an average of 30 patients. They are people coming from all races and denominations, young and old alike. They are typically all over the age of 18, and younger than 65.

With Mississippi seeing a rapidly growing Hispanic population in recent years, there are many at the clinic unable to overcome language barriers, said Norris, who is also MC's vice president for planning and assessment.

That's where MC students are stepping in. Students participating in the ministry are enrolled in a medical Spanish course at the Christian university in Clinton. Spanish instructors Kathy Ravenhorst and Beth Stapleton also attended the clinic - the last one was on Sept. 20 - and assisted as translators. Some of the MC students have also volunteered as translators at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Said Stapleton: "It's a fabulous way for students to gain real-life experience using the language. Besides that, as Christians we are called to serve others. This ministry gives us a tangible way to do that."

Each month, different groups of MC students come to the Madison church to volunteer, said Stapleton, interim chair of the Department of Foreign Languages. But some initially signing up for one month plan to return again and again. "I loved doing this," said Matt Martin, an MC student from Yazoo City. "The Latinos that I met said they were looking forward to seeing me next time. I'll be there."

It's not just a Mississippi College project. Hinds Community College is sending some of its nursing students and the medical community and others are pitching in. It's really a team effort, Norris said, by caring people from all walks of life.

The non-profit project is counting on donations for its support, said Norris, a Gluckstadt resident and member of First Baptist Church in Madison. They are also seeking additional people with medical , dental and language skills and a Christian heart to volunteer at the next clinic Oct. 18. For details, contact Norris at dnorris@mc.edu or First Baptist Church in Madison at 2100 Main Street, Madison or call 601-856-6177.

Working with the ministry are (left to right): Jos_

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