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Promoting good health abroad

January 31, 2019

Shannon Loveless
Shannon Loveless, back row, third from left, traveled to Panama with Western's Alternative Spring Break program to help bring health promotion to Panamanian citizens.

Shannon Loveless was looking for a break from the ordinary. She wanted to spend her reading week doing something that would make a difference in her life and in the lives of others.

Her pursuit led her, and 15 fellow Western students, to Panama as part of Western’s 2018 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program.

“As a student in the Faculty of Health Sciences, helping to facilitate the good health and well-being of others is something I am passionate about,” said Loveless. “I was thrilled to be able to take my learning outside of the classroom in a way that benefitted others.”

During the week-long program, Loveless and her peers worked in an underserviced community clinic, bringing health promotion to Panamanian citizens.

In addition to conducting patient interviews and measuring blood pressure and respiratory rates, they played with the local kids and led an interactive health workshop focused on exercise and proper nutrition.

“We had a great turnout at our information sessions. The community was very engaged and asked a lot of questions.”

In addition to enabling Panamanians to increase control over, and to improve, their health, Loveless spent time exploring the country’s rich history and culture. She learned some Spanish words and phrases, toured a market in the Old City and visited the famous Panama Canal.

“It was such an enriching experience, and I can truly say participating in the ASB program was one of the best choices I have ever made. Our group made so many memories together. I look back and remember the trip as us always laughing.” 

For many Western students, this type of experience would be out of reach if it weren’t for the generosity of private donors. Donor support makes it possible for Western to offer financial assistance to students participating in international field schools, exchange and study abroad programs, and service learning opportunities – like the ASB program.

Loveless is grateful to have received a donor-funded Global Opportunities Award, which aided her participation in the program. Travel awards and bursaries provide support for program costs including transportation, accommodations, insurance and food.

“It meant a lot to me that I was able to volunteer my time without having to worry about paying for the experience on top of that. Receiving a Global Opportunities Award afforded me the chance to fully participate in an opportunity that enriched my learning and made an impact on others.”

Reflecting on the generosity of Western’s donors, Loveless said, “Western donors not only care about the students of Western University, they care about the global impact a university education can have. Western donors enabled me to reach my full potential and harness an opportunity that changed me as a person. For that, I will always be grateful.”

Now in the fourth year of her degree, Loveless plans to pursue a career in health-care law and policy. She is interested in many of the topics on the legislative agenda today including marijuana legalization, wait times, sexual education and the opioid epidemic, and she is confident the knowledge and skills she has learned – inside and outside of the classroom – will position her for success.

To learn more about Global Opportunities Awards and how you can give Western students a global context for learning, click here.



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