Merrill (left) and Moore (right). Photo courtesy of Moore.
By Quincey Taylor
Cookies and milk, movies and popcorn, picnics and watermelon. Some things just go together. The same goes for Heather Merrill and Atalie Moore, BYU nursing alumni and best friends. These two have big plans and big hearts. In March, they will be volunteering in Greece to help with the treatment of a growing refugee population. They will volunteer for DocMobile, a company who gives care to those in need from the back of a van.
Moore and Merrill both graduated from the BYU nursing program in December of 2017. They have enjoyed gaining experience in the medical field since graduation. However, they wanted to find a way to do more. While in school, they had gone on a study abroad to Ecuador and had a chance to serve people there. Both fell in love with the chance to assist international populations in a sustainable way.
The desire to serve refugees in particular was inspired by Merrill’s interest in the Syrian refugee crisis. This war is different than any other we have seen in history, Merrill states, because “they are specifically targeting civilian areas in Syria, like hospitals and schools.” The devastation of the Syrian population has been widespread and drawn out, driving them to neighboring countries for survival
The war in the Middle East has been a seemingly never-ending struggle. Merrill worries that these news stories have become commonplace to Americans. She says, “Every day in Syria people are still getting bombed and it’s created a huge crisis.” Merrill and Moore have a goal of raising awareness to this issue as well as motivating other volunteers to find ways to serve.
They realize that it’s not feasible for everyone who wants to help to go abroad, but luckily there are many opportunities for people to volunteer locally. Merrill says, “Usually the best impact you can make is close by. I love going abroad and helping people but I also hesitate because you have to be aware of the impact you’re going to make.” Moore adds, “In the end, not everyone can go on trips like we’re going on. That’s okay. You don’t have to.”
To find a way to start, they recommend using resources like the Just Serve app, which includes different opportunities to help refugees in areas as close as Salt Lake City.
Moore had their plan confirmed in her mind after an experience while working at the Utah Valley Hospital. A patient of hers was a refugee from the Congo, and they were communicating by typing into an iPad and translating. She says about the experience, “I got talking to her at the beginning of the day, and I asked her about her family and how long have she had been here. She just said, ‘Well, my sister and I were able to escape but the rest of my family was killed.’ I can’t even imagine. That’s her reality. We have no concept of that. We have no idea. That’s just her life. She just has to keep moving forward and find a way to continue on and I think that moment just solidified my desire to help with the refugee crisis. We need to be doing something. There’s such a need.”
Merrill feels that, as a healthcare professional, “You need to be aware of not only the refugee crisis but all of the different crises or hard situations for people around the world. You need to stay aware of current events so that you can raise awareness and help.”