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Donna Hoffert: Ethiopian Encounter

A couple of years ago, Donna Hoffert had never been outside the United States. “I don’t travel from here to Burien,” quips this grandmother of five, who retired in June 2008 after 29 years of teaching nursing, the last eight at Seattle Pacific

But that changed in December 2006 when she was invited to Ethiopia’s Central Health College in Addis Ababa to work with their nursing program, and to represent the United States in CHC’s first international conference on quality education and health.

That invitation was a “high honor,” says Lucille Kelley, dean of SPU’s School of Health Sciences, and Hoffert didn’t need to be asked twice. “I left my husband and my puppy,” she says, “and I went.”

Hoffert was not prepared for what she discovered when she arrived. CHC was impoverished beyond belief. Students sat on old, broken plastic crates, which they brought with them to class. In tiny notebooks with stubby pencils they furiously wrote down virtually every word the instructor said — because the instructor was the only one with a book (usually long-outdated). Since that time, SPU has sent CHC “closets full of books.”

Hoffert’s legacy at CHC, however, extends far beyond books. Not only did she leave students with a wealth of nursing knowledge, but, through her creative teaching strategies, she was an invaluable role model for instructors.

Her 10-day visit had an impact on this side of the globe as well. SPU’s MSN graduates of 2008 were so inspired by Hoffert’s tales that they donated $500 to CHC students, and three current MSN students plan to embark on mission trips.

“This is only a beginning,” says Kelley. “Donna's passion, commitment, and involvement have shaped the knowledge, awareness, and thinking of the SHS community in regard to Ethiopia and nursing in Ethiopia.”

Those 10 days in Ethiopia had a profound impact on Hoffert as well. “It was life changing,” she says. “Absolutely life changing.”

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