Western New Yorkers pass the early days of spring shaking off the remains of
winter or shuttling down to Florida.
April, the SUNY Erie Community College Dental Hygiene instructor spent her
season’s transition in Kasese, Uganda, utilizing her programmatic expertise to
benefit underserved residents of the West Africa expanse in conjunction with
the education and healthcare-focused Community Health & Education for Rural
days working with other staff members—including her husband, a retired Navy
officer who’s been involved with the Ugandan-backed effort’s foundation for 12
years—Ellison provided basic screenings, dental health education,
fluoride varnish applications, and recommendations for future treatment for approximately 70 patients, ranging in age
from 18 months to 83 years old.
our screenings, several people had teeth extracted,” said Ellison, who’s been
an adjunct clinical faculty member at SUNY Erie since 2013. “Other issues were
either referred elsewhere, or handled right there if it was fairly minor.”
amid her Ugandan site’s conditions—without a full staff of experienced medical
professionals, compressors to run dental equipment or a modernized treatment
facility—was a challenging experience for Ellison, but also provided plenty of
instructional material for her SUNY Erie students. She presented her trip’s
moments to these students in October, detailing obscure findings and moments
that enriched her both professionally and personally.
there are happy and faithful,” said Ellison. “They may have to walk a couple
miles or more to get [to services], but they’re very respectful and grateful.”
response, both students and faculty expressed interest in pursuing similar
international missions, and bringing the training earned at SUNY Erie to
communities in need, no matter how far outside the parameters of Western New
York. As for Ellison, she’d like to return to Uganda and the mission of CHERA,
but not for a while. In the meantime, she’ll appreciate and utilize the impact
of a truly meaningful mission.
left, my husband asked me for three words for I felt about my experience,” she said. “Humbled,
inspired and grateful.”
the Community Health and Education for Rural Africa, Inc. (CHERA): The
organization strives to improve the lives of those in Sub-Saharan Africa’s most
impoverished communities by providing access to education and healthcare to
orphans and other vulnerable children through enduring relationships with local
leadership. The Rwenzori Region in Uganda is home to 15,000 to 20,000 children
orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
are living in families headed by siblings in their early teens. Supporting and
guiding these young people until they are self-sufficient and able to join the
community as contributing adults is essential for the future of the region.
CHERA works with local leaders of the Kasese Community Health and Education
Foundation (KCHEF) to provide healthcare and educational opportunities to
at-risk children. For more information visit CHERA’s website at www.cherahealth.org, or find them on
SUNY Erie Community
College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the
economic vitality of Western New York since 1946. As a member of the state’s
SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and
accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment.
Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, SUNY Erie’s faculty, staff and
students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and
partnership. For more information, visit www.ecc.edu
or call (716) 851-1ECC.