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Friday, Oct 24, 2014

Fog/Mist, 37 °F

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Red Cross in South Africa

OHIO's Child and Family Studies majors first volunteered at Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town in 2009.

Photographer: Gabby Kelly

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Child life students ready to assist children's hospital in South Africa


On Sunday, a team of 11 Ohio University undergraduates will travel to Cape Town, South Africa, for four weeks of volunteer work at Red Cross Children's Hospital.

In addition to daily work at the children's hospital as part of the Pain Management Team, the Child and Family Studies majors will be doing various service-learning projects throughout the city. These include helping with pediatric medical clinics in nearby townships, working with HIV positive teenagers and spending a day at a medically assisted orphanage for young children.

"I'm a real advocate of service learning," said Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies Jenny Chabot, a certified child life specialist who will accompany students on the trip. "It really provides a huge service to the hospital and brings to life what I've been teaching them in the child life courses here."

This is the second time that Chabot has coordinated study abroad in South Africa – a destination chosen for its established child life programs. All of the OHIO participants are pursuing a concentration in child life -- a field that seeks to normalize the hospitalization experience for children and their families.

Currently, all students in child life are required to complete 500-plus hours interning at a children's hospital, according to Chabot.

"In order to even land those, you have to have previous hospital experience," she said.

"In South Africa, they are very open to us being everywhere in the hospital, so students are getting experiences that they're not going to get in U.S. hospitals. That kind of preparation is just going to be tremendous for them," Chabot added.

For senior Christina Schumacher, the trip marks her second time working in a hospital environment and her first time out of the United States.

"I've never done anything like this before," Schumacher said. "But especially with (child life), the more you can learn about diversity and leaving your biases at the door, the better off you'll be to provide support to children and their families. I think it will be good to see that the world isn't the small box that I live in."

Currently, Ohio University is one of two colleges in Ohio that meets the  standards for child life certification. According to Chabot, the University has a 100 percent passing rate on the certification exam, taken once they successfully complete the required child life internship.

Students participating in the child life study abroad in South Africa will earn two credit hours during the trip. The experience is being offered through OHIO's Office of Education Abroad with assistance from Connect-123.

In addition to Chabot, students will be accompanied by OHIO child life alumna Jenna Kostival, who works as a certified child life specialist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Kostival has been granted a one- month leave of absence help out with supervision of the Ohio University contingent in South Africa.

"My hope for this trip is that students are pushed out of their comfort zones, have the opportunity to work with different medical professions and disciplines, work with diverse cultures, and learn that play is universal and how important play is to each child, even those in the hospital," Kostival said.