Biology professor’s mission trips provide ‘beacon of positivity’

March 8, 2021

Amid the pandemic, international service work continues for La Salle’s Rhonda Hazell, DPM.

Mission is a calling for Rhonda Hazell, DPM.

An assistant professor of biology at La Salle University, Hazell for several years now has made mission trips to Haiti. The pandemic has complicated her international travel plans, particularly to remote areas of the Caribbean country. For Hazell, the trips represent a “beacon of positivity” for those in need.

The most-recent recipient of La Salle’s Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, Hazell returned in December from her most recent two-week trip. She shared some of her experiences.

“I really enjoy going there,” Hazell said of the Saint John Baptist De La Salle School in the Cazeau section of Port Au Prince, Haiti, a primary school for pre-K through ninth-grade students. “The students at the school are bouncing off the walls at 6:15 in the morning, excited to come and learn. The students are learning English at the school. Since there are a lot of international visitors to Haiti, being able to speak English gives those students access to better jobs.”

Outside of the classroom, Hazell often travels on dirt roads to remote parts of the country to assist with pop-up health clinics in impoverished areas that lack basic resources like access to running water.

“I brought six duffle bags of medicine with me on this trip,” she said. “The people come from all over, sometimes traveling great distances to receive treatment. We see about 50 to 60 patients a day to treat everything from skin infections, fungal infections, and allergies, to eye irritations, parasites, and hypertension due to diet. I’m glad I’m able to offer hope to someone who’s struggling.”

Fundraising for school scholarships to attend the La Salle school in Port Au Prince remains a challenge, Hazell said. This year, through donations and private collections, Hazell sponsored 30 students to attend the school and provided donations that go to one of the local Haitian orphanages.

“I’m already looking forward to the next trip,” Hazell said.

—Shea Wright