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June 2008 Issue

Nursing student Alex Freisthler hopes to return to Hondorus where he is a volunteer nurse as part of the Shoulder to Shoulder program.
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Nursing Student Aims to Be the First 'Extended-Stay Caregiver' in Honduras

By Angela Koenig
Published June 2008

Do what you love and the money will follow is an adage most often associated with corporate America.

Nursing student Alex Freisthler, however, hopes that applies to charitable endeavors as well—more specifically, his. The goal: to raise $8,500 by Sept. 1 for a year-long stay in Santa Lucia, Honduras, where he intends to practice nursing with Shoulder to Shoulder, a nonprofit health clinic.

“It’s not like I’m the first person to volunteer,” Freisthler says humbly, referring to the scores of medical and lay persons who’ve gone before him with Shoulder to Shoulder and similar organizations.

Should Freisthler succeed, however, he will be the clinic’s first extended-stay nurse to come out of UC’s College of Nursing. He will also be the first long-term nurse with Shoulder to Shoulder.

Shoulder to Shoulder was founded in 1996 by Jeff Heck, MD, a former professor at the UC College of Medicine who serves
as the organization’s executive director.

The college started collaborating with Shoulder to Shoulder in 2001 and has sent about 50 students, says Tina Weitkamp, director of the Center for International Affairs in the College of Nursing.

“I’m still amazed that he is doing this,” she says, adding that while it’s always a memorable experience, it seems to have affected Freisthler more strongly than she’s seen in others.

“I liked the people and I feel like I can help,” Freisthler says, adding there was no lightning strike event to mark the calling. His compassion is evident, however, when he describes the experience as nursing in its “truest” form.

“They get by, they live, but they suffer with things that could have been so easily treated here,” such as an eye infection that might blind a child without access to antibiotics. And while suffering runs the gamut, the people are “the most kind, genuine and grateful” he’s ever encountered.

Volunteers of all kinds are welcomed, says Mo Jennings, development director at Shoulder to Shoulder.

“We have people who have gone down on a two-week stint with a group and said, ‘Wow, I want to contribute more,’ and people for whom it’s a one-time experience.

“We need both, but we also need everyday people who can’t just walk away from life here but who empower other people by their financial resources and emotional support,” Jennings adds.

To learn more about Shoulder to Shoulder, visit To contact Freisthler,

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