June 9-19, 2018

Students – practicing nurses from United States University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, whose field of study is Community nursing visited Slovakia as part of their studies. During the Slovakia summer 2018 faculty travel course, they visited community centers for people from marginalized Roma communities, hospitals, senior houses, nurseries, Roma settlements and other places.

For over 10 years, the Association for Culture, Education and Communication (ACEC), in partnership with the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, has been organizing this unique educational program. Students are trained in vocational education and practice, while having the opportunity to learn about our diverse culture and landscape.

This unique service-learning study abroad program, Slovakia summer 2018 faculty travel course, was carried out by ACEC in cooperation with Wisconsin Green Bay University for students of the community nursing study department. It focused on disadvantaged groups of the population, the homeless and primarily the marginalized Roma community. Students took part in presentations and discussions with professionals from different areas and community members themselves in order to better understand the cultural, social and health challenges they face. Staying in the heart of Europe offered the students a great opportunity to get to know the beauties of our picturesque Slovakia – from the Danube to the High Tatras, but also to visit the neighboring countries – City of Vienna and Krakow.


Day 1, June 9

Location: Vienna

A group of 14 devoted and eager to learn UWGB students accompanied by two professors Janet Reilley, Associate Professor and Family Nurse Practitioner Chair of MSN Leadership and Management in Health Systems and Rebecca Hovarter, Lecturer (Nursing & HIMT Programs), arrived in Schwechat airport to begin their exciting journey throughout Slovakia. And what a journey to begin! The study tour was launched by the evening guided tour to the city of Vienna.



Day 2, June 10

Location: Bratislava

The day began with Bratislava city train tour, visiting Old Town, Slavín, and Devín Castle. The afternoon program continued with “Roma in Slovakia” Conference. Opening sessions and topics covered welcoming note to Slovakia and Central Europe held by Magdaléna Rothová, Director of ACEC and Michal Vašečka, a sociologist with focus on issues of ethnicity, race and migration studies.

Thanks to the presentation of Mrs. Ľuboslava Pavelová, university teacher at Comenius University in Nitra, all participants were acquainted with the nursing educational system in Slovakia.

We were honored with the presence of important guests: H.E. Adam H. Sterling (Ambassador to the United States in Slovak Republic), Mrs. Jana Illešová (Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy), Mrs. Anna Debnárová (Kresťania v meste), Mr. Matúš Čupka (candidate for Mayor for Bratislava part Nové Mesto), Mr. Matúš Ferenčík (Domov Sv. Jána z Boha), Mrs. Ľuboslava Pavelová (Comenius University in Nitra), and others.

Venue of Castle Restaurant with magnificent view of old Bratislava offered its premises for welcome dinner and space for further discussions on different topics and places to be visited the following days.



Day 3, June 11

Location: Bratislava

The Conference continued with Roma related topics. Michal Vašečka opened the day 2 with another introductory session on our country “Slovakia: a sociologist’s view”. With the emphasis on “The everyday life of segregated Roma” and “Slovak Roma and their health: An anthropologists´ overview” continued Mr. Andrej Belák, who is currently, along with his Health Sciences PhD studies at the University of Groningen, finishing his PhD in social anthropology at the Department of General Anthropology, Charles University in Prague.

The day was concluded by Mr. Tomáš Szalay and his introduction to the Public Health System in Slovakia. Mr Szalay is a consultant and policy advisor with fifteen years of experience in the Slovak health system and more than twelve years of experience in health systems in transition and post-communist countries. Joint lunch gave an extra opportunity and space for Q&A on presented topics and discussions with the speakers.

In the afternoon, a visit to Homeless shelter Domov Sv. Jána z Boha offered a first in the terene meeting with socially disadvantaged community. At the same address a hospital for people in need is placed. Students accompanied by Matúš Ferienčík, the director of Domov Sv. Jána z Boha, Anna Debnárová, and other devoted people got familiar with the mission and performance of both facilities and met the clients. Devoted nurses visited and gave needed help to people living in the homeless getto Zátišie.



Day 4, June 12

Location: Skalica

With help and support from Zuzana Havírová, we organized a visit to Skalica. Zuzana is mainly focusing on issues of excluded Roma communities for nearly 15 years. She is the author of a qualitative pilot study Eloced workplaces of secondary vocational schools in marginalized Roma communities and was awarded for her work in social affairs by City of Skalica.

High School of Nursing Stredná zdravotnícka škola in Skalica, and the director of the school Ľudmila Bábiková, opened the gates for the visit of their American counterparts. Students had an opportunity to compare the differences in school systems of their two countries and to exchange their studying experiences and knowledge. Nursing studens had the opportunity to see the class demonstrations realized by the junior students under the teachers supervision. Important part of the practical studies of UWGB students was teaching Health Promotion Disease and Health Prevention topics to the high school students.

In the afternoon, the group moved to daily center Senior House to meet with elderly people, learn about their stories and provide Health interventions. Thanks to Gabriela Patková, Head of the Department of Social Care and Health in Skalica Municipal Office, there were 40 seniors who had a great interest in sharing the experience and life wisdom and above all in the blood pressure and sugar measurement.



Day 5, June 13

Location: Košice

Early morning train travel was filled by home-works with view of the beautiful setting on the way to Košice. Main mission of the day was to visit and explore Luník IX, well known town part of Košice with the highest density of the Roma population in Slovakia. Part of the visit was also Mašličkovo, a nearby Roma settlement.

After meeting with Marcel Šaňa, Mayor of Luník and Rudolf Rusňák, the Coordinator of Health Mediators from the national project Healthy Community, nursing students had an opportunity to observe work of the Health Mediators from the surrounding localities and interact with local citizens. The most welcoming were the kids who were enthusiastic for the prepared games, which of course brought immense gratification and joy to nursing students. Students gave lectures here on healthy food while drawing vegetables and fruits with chalk on a pavement and explaining the importance of vitamins and in which vegetable / fruit we can find them.



Day 6, June 14

Location: Chminianske Jakubovany / Kežmarok

Visiting Roma settlement in Chminianske Jakubovany gave another important insight into the life style and habits of Roma citizens living in Slovakia. Roma Health Mediators prepared a number of activities with children covering health. Tomáš Sivák, the Coordinator from the national project Healthy Community supervised the program.

The welcoming exceptional performance by kids in the elementary school gave the drive to the upcoming interventions. Divided into two groups, the students visited and realized interventions in the elementary school Základná škola Chminianske Jakubovany run by devoted director Juliana Perečinská and special elementary school Špeciálna základná škola Chminianske Jakubovany. The intervention given by the students and education activities at the elementary school were mainly focused on teeth hygiene. At the special elementary school the students gave education to the students on contraception.

Afternoon program continued with the visit of Dr. Vojtech Alexander Hospital in Kežmarok. The students were welcomed by Viktor Halíř, the director of the hospital and accompanied by Jana Bartková, the deputy director and leading nurse. With regard to the Roma question, it is to be noted, that in Kežmarok most of them are citizens integrated into society, they live in different parts of the city, most of them are concentrated in the Roma community, where they live in the old row of houses.

The day was ended with tasting the traditional food and listening to the rhythm of Roma music in the pleasant atmosphere with fireplace in the restaurant Zbojnícka Koliba.



Day 7, June 15

Location: Lomnička

The particular experience with the clients, visiting locals at their homes was the Roma settlement in Lomnička. After the visit at the Mayor´s office and being welcomed by Mária Oračková, the Mayor of Lomnička, the students accompanied by Anna Dunková, Coordinator of the Nation Project Healthy Communities, with the help of Marcela Kroščenková, Health Assistant had the opportunity to visit the local inhabitants and their homes.

Another part of the activities targeting the kids took place in the local Community center. The Community center is used in the day-to-day work of measuring blood pressure, searching for contacts on specialist and doctors for the Roma community, weighing newborns. There is also charity offering clothing and other stuff for those in need.

Afternoon program offered tour to explore the beauty of High Tatras.



Day 8, June 16

Locality: Huncovce

Slovak part of the study tour was accomplished in the last Roma settlement in Huncovce, locality with no drinking water for settlement inhabitants. Thanks to Ondrej Pompa, Coordinator of the National Project Healthy Community and the present Health mediators: Mária Peštová, Lenka Polhošová, Milan Polhoš and Dáša Horváthová, the initial distance on the side of the local inhabitants was overcome, and the students could give the health interventions to those who needed it. Despite the harmful conditions, the kids were excited and playful (as always!).

In the afternoon, group moved to Pieniny – the smallest of the Slovak National Parks, but as far as its beauty concerns, it is in no way less beautiful. It stretches on the border with Poland; the river Dunajec passes through it. After the exciting rafting down the river, our joint journey came to an end. ACEC staff ended their mission and American students continued their trip to Krakow, Poland.



Day 9, June 17

Location: Krakow

A tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a sobering and important reminder of the horrors of the Nazi regime, and one of the most iconic human memorials of the modern age, it’s a veritable must for many visitors to Krakow, that offers a well-rounded basis of the history of the camp itself, the treatment of the different types of prisoners, and the horrors of the Holocaust more generally.

It was undoubtedly hard to watch. Confronting. Painful and sickening.

Some places you visit for their beauty, others for their iconic status. And some places – some places you visit because they should never be forgotten.


ACEC team has been very pleased to invite the UWGB group visiting Slovakia again. We very much appreciate, that students have chosen Slovakia for their study visit, and that they are interested in exploring Slovak culture and meet with those in need in our country.