Pamela Van Vleet’s Mission to India

IMG_0420Although volunteering in global health care is not new to me, my travels to India with Project Starfish India proved to be a unique, stimulating and very rewarding experience.

Project Starfish India is a secular organization that partners with Holy Cross Hospital located in the town of Nagercoil. Nagercoil is located in the southernmost Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Partnering with the hospital resulted in a well-orchestrated 2 week mission where we visited 8 different underserved villages in the area. The hospital utilized some of their physicians, pharmacists, lab technicians, staff nurses and nursing students, to team up with the physician and nurse volunteers who came from the US with Project Starfish India. The care we provided to 1872 patients was primarily general adult and pediatric care with an added focus on Diabetes and Diabetic Education, as Diabetes is very prevalent in India. The patients we saw were from several faiths including Catholic, Hindu and Muslim and at every “camp”, we were warmly greeted and honored in a reception which frequently included traditional dancing from the children and teens of the village.

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I particularly enjoyed working with the Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital and their staff. Everyone worked very hard and enjoyedIMG_0490 learning from each other. On most of our sometimes, very long bus rides to the “camps”, we had time to chat with each other about families, culture and customs with mutual interest. Many times, the Sisters would start our bus journey with a prayer song, intended to help us have a safe journey. If you have ever experienced the chaotic traffic in India, you would understand how we truly appreciated the extra protection.


IMG_0456One of the challenges we all experienced was working in extreme heat, typically in the high 90’s with humidity around 75%, creating a heat index in the triple digits. It was unusually hot and we worked in either open air pavilions or indoor rooms with a few simple fans, resulting in working in our soaking wet scrubs. Fortunately, our bus had air conditioning and while we sat in the comfort of the AC, we could look out the window to see women walking in the heat, dressed in their colorful, traditional, full saree.  Interestingly in contrast, we witnessed the men wearing the much cooler, folded lungi which actually looks like a short sarong skirt. Both men and women would have towels on their shoulders or in their hand to wipe the constant perspiration that could not be avoided.

Southern India was an exhilarating place to visit and serve. The people, colors, smells, noise, IMG_0490foods and chaos will not be easy to forget. I returned home exhausted, with the sense of satisfaction you receive from helping others, however I am most grateful to the many people I met who touched my life even more.

Thank you One Nurse At A Time for helping me help others.




The Students from Edmonds-Woodway High School held a fundraiser to make a donation to One Nurse At A Time and sponsor a nurse on their medical mission.  Their donation helped fund this mission.  If you, or your organization, would like to sponsor a nurse please contact us at





If you are a nurse and are interested in volunteering in a medical mission, or you know someone who is, One Nurse At A Time has scholarships available.  Just go to our website and click on the Scholarship tab.