Elaine Alston is a 40-year old Nurse, she was born in South-Africa and grew up in the states. Her father was a refugee seeking to get an education in the US. Elaine chose to be a nurse because she always loved science, she loves how things work in nature harmoniously. She also had the gift to care for people without feeling burdened. She did try to do other things in life, but once she came back to who she was and what she was born to do, it felt right. For Elaine choosing to become a nurse was one of the most natural things to do.
Today she has a Non-Profit Organization:”Nurses With Purpose”, she started this organization “unknowingly” while she was in nursing school. She was so eager to be in the hospital that she signed up for a volunteer program called: “Personal Touch Volunteers”. She just got “bit” by the volunteer program. The reward of seeing that her presence played a positive impact was such a good feeling, it provided her a positive impact. From there on “Nurses With Purpose” just continued to evolve, especially because Elaine was determined NOT TO STOP. Other nurses also became interested in it and joined her. “Nurses With Purpose” grew slowly but consistently.
In 2010 she went back home to South-Africa and she knew instantly that she wanted to volunteer in her native land. This is how the mission trips to South-Africa started. Her profession means so much to her, it means the hope and vitality of life. Elaine believes that if we can care for people, infuse our clinical knowledge, then we will sustain. She never stops believing in “Nurses With Purpose” because the shiny eyes that stares into her soul saying: “Thank you” keeps her going. Funding “Nurses With Purpose” however, has it’s challenges and she knows that as they continue to grow as a formalized organization, funding will be a necessity but they are ready to find creative ways to fund it.
But Elaine is not just the “CEO of Nurses With Purpose”, she still works as a nurse. The difficulty in the transition from nurse to entrepreneur is “time”. “Nurses With Purpose” relies on making connections, volunteer hours and fundraising efforts. Finding a balance between being an entrepreneur and being a working nurse can become difficult. But over the years, the organization has had it’s share of problems: first of all “Nurses With Purpose” has been in the making for several years before officially launching in 2012. They were scheduled for their first medical mission trip in 2015 but had to cancel it due to the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. Elaine knew right there with a tough start, there was only hope for the future.
Other problems they face upon launching and continue to face at times is that, many people fall in love with the idea, raise their hand and say:”I commit!” “I volunteer!” But when the time comes for action, some won’t show up. You may be the only one there, that is when you have to believe in your cause to stay strong and march alone. You tell yourself that it’s “OK”. You remind yourself that you are not there for the volunteers but for the people. Many people work for money but most won’t work for free, it’s a gift.
The difference between a commercial business and a volunteer organization is Income. We do not rely on a product or specific service that allows for residual or retail income. WE RELY ON PEOPLE. We rely on our cause to make it successful. Our goal is to have quality mission trips. Nurses are spending their own hard earned money to give back and travel so far from home. We want them to not only provide service and volunteer but to also indulge in the rich culture, learn the history and enjoy the beautiful land.
10 years from now she sees “Nursing With Purpose” being a full service multi disciplinary volunteer organization, hosting quality medical mission trips 4 times a year. Nurses from all over the world can and should apply. The unity that all cultures can bring under one common goal is phenomenal. We learn and evolve from one another. We pay close attention to any sense of doubt. Our program sustains on hope alone, so doubt cannot exist in our culture. The spirit of giving, the spirit of love is the “Nurse With Purpose” culture. Volunteering is always a happy place.
Why is the nursing shortage increasing? That is something that I ask myself and I have also asked my counterparts. It seems as though the consensus is the same…burn out and stress. This is why volunteering is an essential part to a nurse’s career. It should not be viewed as an additional workday when you’re off, but it must be viewed as a revitalization. It takes you back to why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place: to care, to heal, to touch. In every aspect of our lives we need revitalization, it allows a reemerge of your first love.
Volunteering starts in your own backyard, so although we look forward to the big mission trip abroad, we serve locally first. We have participated and raised money for breast cancer walks and alzheimer’s. We have clothing drives, food drives, backpack lunches for children and participated in fun events such as “Be A Nurse” which introduces children to the career of Nursing.
At “Nurses With Purpose” we are constantly looking for volunteers, partners and projects. So don’t hold back and volunteer: www.nurseswithpurpose.com
Written by Maria Pedro Miala
Maria Pedro Miala is a Mother, 2016-2017 Champion for Change at Empower Women for UN Women. She is a Change maker, a Volunteer, a Mentor to African Students and has 10 years experience as a Nurse in Health Care.