When Carli Maybuck was around eight years old, her family packed their bags with clothes, toys and school supplies and headed out for a family vacation. Instead of going to Disneyland or a resort, the family travelled to an orphanage in Honduras, where they unloaded their luggage and gave gifts to the children.

Since then her family has continued travelling and filling spare suitcases with supplies to share.

Growing up in such an altruistic family showed the 2016 David Thompson Secondary School graduate “that even the small things can help make a difference in a community and the world.”

In May, Ms. Maybuck, who is going into her third year of nursing at the University of Lethbridge, flew to Malawi with more gifts – including health advice and blood-pressure monitoring – to share as part of a field study program.

She and her classmates spent a month visiting 14 communities across the landlocked country in southeastern Africa.

There they taught Grade 7 students about HIV and malaria and led the students in creating skits about the diseases. Then the students performed their educational plays – about prevention, symptoms, treatments and more – for thousands of people in their communities.

“They just loved (performing the skits). It was still a very serious topic but we brought a lot of humour to it,” Ms. Maybuck said.

“(HIV) is a huge issue in Malawi and a lot of the people don’t realize they can get treatment or they are too afraid to get tested because of the stigma around it. So we went there to really show that it is OK to get tested and you won’t just die because you have HIV. There is medication that won’t cure it but will make it non-transmittable,” she said.

Ms. Maybuck’s class brought malaria nets to share with the students and those at most risk. They brought reusable menstrual products so the girls wouldn’t have to miss school each month. For a little fun, they also brought soccer balls and jerseys for the locals.

(Ms. Maybuck’s friends and family in Invermere donated money for malaria nets while Columbia Valley Youth Soccer donated 80 jerseys.)

“I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and volunteer in some way,” she said, adding that she was eager to share her newly-learned nursing skills with the locals. “Every single moment was a highlight for me.”

Little more than a week after her return, Ms. Maybuck was already considering heading back to Malawi to do her practicum overseas.

In the longer term she envisions potentially “volunteering around the world with my nursing career.”

“It’s really heartbreaking living in a place like (Canada) when there’s so much poverty in the world,” she said. “I really want to help people.”