Menu button
Home » Faculty & Staff

Retirement Keeps Former ESL Professor Very Busy

Submitted by on November 23, 2011 – 11:22 am

Retired ESL Professor Jane Thiefels recently returned from a volunteer medical mission in Senegal.

When Jane Thiefels retired from Northern Essex last May she never imagined her retirement would be so rewarding. But, if her recent trip to Senegal as a medical volunteer is any indication, then the rewards will just keep coming.

ESL professor turned registered nurse turned medical traveler, Thiefels hopes to participate in up to four self-funded trips a year delivering medical care and supplies to individuals and clinics in third world countries.

Thiefels has been preparing for this stage of her life for years. A decade ago when she first considered retirement, she says, “I knew I had to find another thing to do.” Having taught ESL in various foreign countries and having a great regard for relief workers she thought bringing nursing care to needy countries would be a perfect marriage of her interests. There was just one stumbling block; she wasn’t a nurse.

So, for six semesters she completed one nursing prerequisite after another in anticipation of enrolling in a nursing program. She was accepted into the associate degree evening nursing program at NECC in the fall of 2006.

“I worked full time but streamlined my life. I bought a semester’s worth of toiletries and greeting cards. I pre-planned lessons, gave students self-correct workbooks, and cooked and froze lots of soup.”

She graduated with her associate of science degree in nursing in 2008 and since then has completed a one-month long trip to Peru and two 10-day trips to Kenya and Senegal with the International Medical Relief Organization out of Colorado.

Thiefels, who spent two years in France after graduating from college more than 30 years ago, immersed herself in French language tapes to reconnect with the language. She is now fluent, which serves as an invaluable tool during her medical missions.

“It took me a long time to retire,” she says. “I loved teaching here. I loved the students. I loved the faculty and staff, but after Kenya I knew it was time to retire and follow this path. After 32 years, I found this wonderfully satisfying avenue.”

She is ever grateful to the students, faculty, and staff at Northern Essex she says. Because of their generous donations as well as donations from Anna Jaques Hospital, Lawrence General Hospital, and Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital she brought 100 lbs of medical supplies to Senegal last month.

During that trip she and 21 others visited five villages. During their trip they examined and treated more than 1000 individuals including 425 Talibe or beggar boys between the ages of 4 and 13 who were in desperate need of medical treatment for everything from vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella, and yellow fever to deworming to ear and eye infections to scabies.

“I know we are not solving the problems, but I would like to think we are helping,” she says. “This is very rewarding work. It is my preferred way to travel. When you sit face to face with these individuals as they tell you their medical history, you form a tremendous bond.”

Home just a few weeks, Thiefels already has her sights set on a mission to India and Mother Theresa’s House.