Lambda Theta Recognized for ‘Backpacks for Haiti Nursing Students’ Initiative


Southeast Missouri State University‘s Lambda Theta Chapter will receive two awards in November in recognition of one of their Global Community Initiatives  at the 44th Biennial Convention of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

The Lambda Theta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing is being recognized in the honor society’s Showcase of Regional Excellence for its “Backpacks for Haiti Nursing Students” community service initiative. The two awards will recognize Lambda Theta in the themes of advocacy and philanthropy.

The Lambda Theta Chapter launched the “Backpacks for Haiti Nursing Students” project in May 2015. Their goal was to collect 25 backpacks with supplies in honor of the chapter’s 25th anniversary. To date, they have surpassed that goal, donating more than 100 backpacks and approximately $2,000.

“It is an honor to be recognized at the national level for the work of our chapter,” said Desma Reno, Lambda Theta chapter president and assistant professor and director of Southeast’s RN-BSN program. “This was one way to engage chapter members in something that addressed a ‘real need’ for the nursing students in Haiti. It is about nurses helping nurses.”

The project goal is to assist nursing students of the Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti. It is difficult to obtain school supplies, and many students share pencils and notebooks. Past and recent hurricanes have made it difficult for the students to acquire general supplies as well as school needs.

Supplies collected at Southeast included sturdy school backpacks, copy paper, notebook paper, composition notebooks, pocket size note pads for clinicals, pencils, ink pens, highlighters, markers, paper clips, tape, glue, simple water bottles, bandages, scissors, hemostats, alcohol prep pads, pill crushers, pill cutters, pen lights, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, bar soap, wash cloths, nail clippers and small sewing kits.

“Backpacks for Haiti Nursing Students” is an ongoing Lambda Theta project. The chapter collaborates with Staples to provide backpacks at a reduced rate throughout the year. The members fill the packs with supplies and send them to liaisons with medical and nursing teams going to Haiti. The teams consist of nursing students, faculty and health care providers from across the United States.

“Our goal is to take a group of Southeast students to Haiti for a similar mission in the next year or two,” Reno said.

Reno and chapter members created the project as a response to the “Influence to Advance Global Health and Nursing” call to action shared by Sigma Theta Tau president, Dr. Cathy Catrambone.  Her request asked members to act in the themes of advocacy, policy, philanthropy and lifelong learning to improve health globally.

Sigma Theta Tau became the first U.S. organization to fund nursing research in 1936. Today, there are 500 chapters nationwide. Over 135,000 active members make the organization the second largest in the United States.