James Madison women’s volleyball outside hitter Martha Stewart is not only dedicated to improving her volleyball skills but also dedicated her winter break to helping to improve the lives of those living in Belize.
When Martha, a psychology major and pre-med student, was informed about JMU’s pre-professional program, International Service Learning, she knew that it was something she wanted to pursue. “I was looking to gain some experience while helping out others,” recalled Martha. “I chose Belize because it worked well with my schedule, but I am thankful it did because I had an amazing time,” Martha said.
The organization works for the promotion of knowledge about the medical field for students, while directly improving the lives of those around the world. While in Belize, Martha worked with a group of 10 native volunteer college students and two doctors learning in the classroom, making house calls and holding free clinics.
During the class portion of the trip, Martha was informed about the basic medical procedures and diseases that their patients would need treated. With this knowledge, Martha made house calls to small towns that could not easily access the clinics located in the larger town centers. On house calls, patients were deemed healthy or ill and if ill, they would be scheduled for an appointment at the clinic for the following day.
Martha’s typical day at the clinic consisted of working to determine a diagnosis for the patients and then presenting the findings to one of the doctors. The doctors then discuss the diagnosis with the students to determine if they were correct and to develop the treatment plan. “While I was there we helped out over 150 patients who wouldn’t normally be able to easily get the help they need,” Martha stated.
When Martha was not spending her time learning about the medical field and helping the people of Belize, she was experiencing and immersing herself within the culture. She spent time visiting the Mayan Ruins, taking dance classes and exploring the islands off the coast.
“It's a great feeling knowing that we really made a difference. I'm so fortunate to have had the opportunity to not only learn more about medicine, but also to experience the culture and, more importantly, to meet so many amazing people whose lives we impact in a positive way,” Martha gratefully stated about her experience.
“Martha embodies the culture at JMU of being the change,” stated volleyball head coach Lauren Steinbrecher. “She continuously and selflessly gives of her time, energy and resources for other people. I know she found her trip to Belize to be very rewarding and I am incredibly proud of not only what Martha does, but also who she is. We are blessed to have her in our program.”
The James Madison community applauds Martha for her accomplishments last season, including CAA All-Academic Team, but cannot be more proud of her dedication to bettering the lives of those in need.