New York – In the days after Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, nurses from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) hit the ground, providing health checks and aid to the hardest hit communities. Since then, NYSNA has deployed medical missions to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Since 2012, more than 600 nurses and healthcare professionals have volunteered on a medical mission.
In 2021, the New York Relief Network (NYRN), a new 501(c)(3) organization, was launched to expand the program and the number of volunteers and medical and educational missions. Volunteers travel where healthcare is largely inaccessible — whether responding to natural or man-made disasters. In 2021, NYRN missions delivered care to migrants from Latin America and Haiti in Mexico, helped test and vaccinate people for COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, and trained nurses in a rural hospital in Egypt.
The medical mission program was suspended during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many NYSNA nurses served people in need closer to home by volunteering at vaccination sites. International missions restarted in fall 2021.
NYSNA member and NYRN board member Karine Raymond, RN, said: “I am so excited to be part of launching NYRN and restarting international medical missions for our members and other volunteers. I think the experience helps communities around the world heal, and it also helps broaden healthcare professionals’ horizons by exposing them to different types of countries and different types of health care delivery systems.”
Shila Pandya, RN, a nurse from NYC Health+Hospitals/Bellevue recently returned from an NYRN mission to the U.S./Mexico border. She said, “It is such a good feeling to give for free and expect nothing. This is why I come, and I love it. It will help you reconnect to why you became a nurse in the first place.”
The NYRN has big plans in 2022. The organization plans to run missions to: Dominican Republic, Thailand, Mexico, Cuba, Ghana, Peru, El Salvador, Egypt, India, Nepal, Puerto Rico, and Brazil.
NYRN Coordinator Rony Curvelo is excited for what lies ahead. With decades of international experience as a global traveler journalist, Curvelo is now connecting NYRN volunteers and NYSNA members with nurses from many parts of the world and providing a unique educational experience.
Curvelo said: “Nurses have the opportunity during our medical and educational missions to learn and teach at the same time. The interchange of ideas with local nurses, the access to different healing methods, and cultural diversity, in addition to the free healthcare they provide to underserved communities, make those missions an extraordinary opportunity to grow as a human and as a professional.”
The New York Relief Network (NYRN) partners NYSNA nurses with healthcare practitioners and trade unionists to deliver critical, timely, and compassionate care to those in need around the world. For more information, visit nysna.org/nyrn.