Not Just A Skill

Alora Stacey (NSG'20) & Amy McKamey (NSG'08) 

It is true that within the community of Rhodes State College, the challenges of learning vocations that are essential to our communities are real, and they are steep. But, there is another well-known truth here. It is that every moment and every challenge build not just an individual with a skill for a job, but form a person who will carry the potential to bring hope and help to a world in need. From the ranks of Rhodes State students come individuals with more than a skill. From here, come people with purpose.

Two such people came to Rhodes State more than a decade apart, attaining nursing degrees with different instructors and entirely different experiences. But, they were brought together by a mission to heal and help.

Alora Stacey (NSG’20) and Amy McKamey (NSG’08) found themselves together on a team traveling on a 16-hour flight from the United States to South Africa (SA) in the cold of February 2023. They journeyed with One Plus God, a ministry organization whose task was to come alongside the children and families in Whitbank, SA for medical care, distribution of healthcare and educational supplies, and to bring encouragement and fun through games, ministry, and events.

The trip, for Alora, was one in a long line of missions in which she has participated. She has been to Haiti, Thailand, Jamaica and South Africa. In the United States, she works at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Hospital in Lima on 5K. She gets to serve in medical oncology, hospice care, and telemetry. She achieved her ADN in 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic; receiving her nurses “pinning” in her car as a drive-through event.

dsc_0129-2.jpgAlora’s time at Rhodes State prepared her both for excellence in her job on 5K and limitless opportunities to serve around the world.

“You can take those things that you learn in school and in practice and use them to just help make people’s lives better. The options are limitless, because you can really go anywhere to use your skills and compassion to serve and help people,” she said.

Similarly, while Amy McKamey’s Rhodes State experience was more traditional, and her “pinning” was her most favorite memory as a 2008 graduate, she, too, has combined her passion for being a bearer of hope with her nursing vocation.

After achieving her ADN, Amy worked in telemetry, as a critical care intern, and in the Cath Lab at Lima Memorial Health System. She later moved to Cincinnati and worked, first, in the electrophysiology lab and then the electrophysiology offices where she currently interrogates pacemakers and defibrillators, programs these mechanisms, and educates patients while monitoring their use of these critical tools.

She has travelled to Haiti, Israel, and South Africa with One Plus God, using her care and nursing skill the most in her recent trip to SA with Alora. “[Nurses] have a skill that not everyone has. If you get the opportunity to serve, you will be blessed way bigger than you ever could bless someone else. I have found that giving and serving other people is the secret to life.” amy-laugh.jpg

Often, when a student’s eyes have gone blurry from reading the same textbook page so many times to wrestle some understanding of the complex ideas from the page, they may not be able to see what’s coming beyond that moment. And, when their hands are full of tools for their job, and their instructor is drilling them on the steps they need to take, they may not fathom the impact they could have on a person, or neighborhood, or the world. But, as Alora and Amy stepped off the airplane in Whitbank, SA, they, again, knew why they persisted. The 14-day trip brought them to new places and to experiences both joyful and heartbreaking.

On the surface, the trip had a simple assignment. They would travel to four preschools to play, read, pray, sing, and set up a medical clinic to take vitals, do assessments, and give a deworming treatment to all of the children. They would offer first aid training to parents, teach the Heimlich, CPR, burn treatment, and natural remedies. And, they would deliver medical supplies, sterile gloves, and children’s books.

What was not so simple was the understanding that the meal in which they would participate at the preschool was the only meal for many of those children; that the impromptu track and field day and soccer match they started were joyful interruptions in a world of “destitution;” and that the children they would serve may have come from homes built from dumpsite trash.

“South Africa is a first world and third world country all on one road. You're either very wealthy or destitute. So, you'll be driving through the town, and there's a McDonald’s. There's a Burger King. There’s the shopping malls. Then, you turn left, and now you're on a dirt road where there’s no electricity and no water. The wealthy people live in gated communities,” Alora explained.dumpsite-2-whitbank-sa.jpg

She continued, “We visited the dumpsite, which is literally an area of landfill. So, that is where they go to dump their trash. And, that's where people find themselves places to live, and then they make a home there out of the garbage. It's actually a pretty dangerous place. We can't even go into the depths of it. It goes way further than what we could even ever see. Because it is just not safe to be in certain areas.”

Amy added, “Some people also live on top of abandoned coal mines, so there's not much holding them up. At any time, the house can just go down into a sinkhole.”

The two women agreed that, though the circumstances were terrible for the people they would serve, the joy, faith, and love they felt from those same people impacted them more than their service could ever impact Whitbank, SA.

“We’re not going to change the world. But, just help. That’s what we can do. It's not like what we're bringing is going to save the country, but it's just helping our brothers and sisters across the world to do what they need to do, and giving them a reprieve in a way, or just boosting them up,” Amy said.

med-day-alora-south-africa.jpg“It’s so incredible just to go over and love on people. We're just stepping into their daily life. And you're just living, with [the skills you have]. And you're doing life with them. It's so refreshing to step into their culture,” Alora added.

Both Amy and Alora came home inspired and renewed in their assurance that their skills in nursing are more than just skills, but open doors to offer hope and help. Amy recalled (with a smile) the Rhodes State instructor who told her, as she stressed about course content, that “you can do anything for 10 weeks.” And, now, she knows, “she can do anything”—her job, travel across the world, serve—" for however long it takes.”

As Alora remembered her experience, she used her hands to describe the people she met on her journeys, and as she talked, you could see the word, “Joy” tattooed on her forearm. She wears the same joy in her eyes as she talks about the confidence she gained in her clinical experiences at Rhodes that catapulted her confidence. And, it was her confidence and faith that led her to her calling of service and love.

The community of Rhodes State often talks about their mission to change lives, build futures and improve communities. But, it is not just talk. It is a challenge accepted.

We are thankful for Amy and Alora and for all of our graduates whose potential to bring hope and help to the world is limitless.