For the past two years, Persephone Munnings, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) alumna and Bahamas resident, has led a health screening and education session in her community for Walden’s Global Day of Service. Her project was designed to promote wellness and raise awareness of chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
For Persephone, getting involved is about making a difference. In recognition of International Volunteer Day, she spoke with Spotlight on Walden about her volunteer experiences and how her Walden degree is helping her make a difference.
You’ve been a project leader for Global Day of Service for the past two years. What does it mean to you personally to volunteer?
I find volunteerism and being able to make a difference in my community very rewarding. Volunteering goes beyond any kind of recognition for me. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction that I was able to make a difference. In my country, NCDs are taking a toll on the health of our people. I felt that the best way I could make a difference was by educating and raising awareness among the community about the prevalence of these diseases. I enjoyed my experience with Walden’s Global Day of Service, and I hope to participate again next year and encourage my colleagues to join me.
Are you involved in other volunteer efforts?
I currently serve as president of the Nurses Association of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, where I share my knowledge and expertise as a nurse and educator. I also present to church groups and civic groups on healthy lifestyles and conduct community health screenings among these groups.
I also recently helped to start a Zumba fitness group for nurses and others in the community to promote a healthy lifestyle in a fun way. Exercise sounds like hard work, but Zumba shows you can get moving by having fun. You work up quite a sweat after Zumba, but it’s a fun way to get people involved in reducing the impact of these noncommunicable diseases.
You have very specific goals for your work in the Bahamas to raise awareness of the leading causes of death there. What kind of impact are you seeing as a result of your work?
We have seen an increased awareness of the impact of noncommunicable diseases among people in the community. A lot of people we spoke to at the health screenings had this belief that if something was wrong they would have symptoms. But in fact, many had elevated blood pressure. The health screenings provided us the opportunity to educate people and refer them to health centers for further management. We’re in the process of compiling the data from those events and other screenings to show the impact of what we are doing. Our goal is to get people to understand that NCDs can affect anyone.
How is your degree helping you make a difference, either through your work as a nurse and/or volunteer efforts?
I work in the continuing nursing education department in the main hospital in the Bahamas. I always felt like I had a gift for teaching, but completing my degree at Walden has enhanced that gift. Having the theoretical knowledge to support what I do has really impacted my work. While my degree was in nursing education, it had components of leadership and a strong focus on community involvement and social change. Completing my degree has also allowed me to serve as a resource person for others at my hospital who are completing their degrees at Walden and other institutions. I was privileged to serve as a colleague’s preceptor for her practicum. I find that now, whatever I am involved in, I do it with excellence and a focus on making a difference.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to volunteer but doesn’t know where to start?
Look around your community and identify a need, no matter how small it may be. Wherever there is a need, I encourage you to think about how you can make a difference. Have the willingness to help. And generating interest or encouraging others to get involved is critical. Our health screening project wasn’t something we could do on our own. We got the mall involved; the local drug companies and Ministry of Health donated supplies. The nurses also donated their time and expertise. One or two hours of volunteer service can truly make a difference.
Register and find year-round volunteer opportunities in your community on the Walden Service Network at www.WaldenU.edu/servicenetwork.