Co-op student finds life altering work

December 02, 2004, vol. 31, no. 7
By John Grant

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Her goal may have been to secure a co-op education job placement, but instead Robin Hopkins ventured out on what became a life-altering experience.

The third-year kinesiology student is working in a medical clinic in the remote Ethiopian village of Tikempt Ishet, a place so tiny that it's hard to see, let alone find on any map.

Her primary duty is to assist the local nurses in administering vaccines and treating patients with wounds. However, among the 55 cases she deals with on a daily basis are incidents that many people only witness on the evening news.

In a recent email to family and friends, Hopkins briefly described some of the injuries she attends to, two of which included, “assisting with suturing up a little boy's wrist (which was sliced open with a machete), as well as a lung protruding out of a man's chest (he got in a fight with his brother, who stabbed him with a spear).”

The challenges do not end in the workplace. When she retires to her home in the evening she's often faced with more personal obstacles to overcome.

During her first week alone, she survived an African army ant invasion, a lizard raiding her living room, and a massive spider lurking on her wall that she had to get rid of by herself.

It's clear she's adapting to her surroundings, though, as she casually mentions she's “over the fact of stepping in manure, now the goal is to step in the dry stuff.” Although the events she's experiencing may sound horrific, she completes nearly every sentence by stating: “it was probably the greatest experience I ever had.”

Hopkins' story is not unique. She is but one example of how SFU students are impacting the international community and vice-versa. Not only is she applying her education and skills toward helping citizens in an impoverished country, but she's also receiving much more in return.

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