NEWINGTON - Do you know of a health care professional who has busted their butt this year, serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic?
A local nonprofit is collecting nominations with plans to send 60 lucky, hard-working individuals on free trips overseas once travel is safe again.
“Heal the Frontline Trek” is a new project being organized by Global Study Treks, a 501-c-3 founded by Newington resident, Harvard University alumnus, author and global educator Sam Sharma.
“Watching the news, following this pandemic we’ve learned how all these doctors, nurses and other staff have been struggling, especially in the Northeast,” Sharma said. “All the hardship, trauma and sacrifice they’ve gone through … I always try to make a difference and I thought, the best way I can make a difference now is to organize a trip where they heal and share their experiences with others.”
The organization’s board of directors is seeking nominations of local health professionals who have “gone above and beyond” during the pandemic. Three separate trips are being planned to Thailand, Costa Rica and India. Sharma calls them “international healing treks.”
“Our goal is to nominate 60 local frontline health care workers who are fighting or fought a brave battle against this current pandemic,” he explained. “We’re hoping a few frontline warriors from New Britain General will be among them. We want to reach out to the local community, have people fill out a nomination form and then after we’ve chosen the groups we will start the fundraising. We will reach out to local residents and local businesses, big corporations, institutions and foundations.”
He is no stranger to these types of educational, philanthropic pursuits.
In 2013 Sharma founded the Northwood Program, an experiential travel education initiative for students. He went on to establish Global Study Treks, whose mission is to identify, create and advance global citizenship and civic leadership skills and meaningful service learning among American youths from low-income backgrounds. Sharma currently serves as area chairman, Schools & Scholarships Committee for the Harvard College Office of Admissions and Financial Aid in Connecticut.
It was the experience of a personal friend of his that inspired this new initiative.
Hoay Smith, now on the “Frontline 60” board of directors, was infected with covid-19 and treated at a hospital in the Bronx. A U.S. Marine and retired New York Police Department member, Smith survived the virus thanks to his personal strength and the care of nurses and doctors.
“He’s like my mentor, I’ve known him over 20 years,” Sharma said of Smith. “He told me stories about what he saw these hospital workers go through. That really motivated me to do something.”
The fundraising goal has been set at $258,000, to provide 60 health care professionals all-inclusive healing treks, valued at $4,300 each. International airfare, hotels, food, accommodation, transportation, insurance and all expenses will be covered. Trips are being coordinated by the Frontline60 Trek Advisory Board and Global Study Treks team.
On their travels, participants will be treated to meditation and mindfulness activities to cultivate positivity, enlightenment, inner peace, stress management, self-awareness and clarity.
Health care facilities and members of the public are encouraged to make a nomination at globalstudytreks.org and share on social media using #FRONTline60.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.