When Alison T. Wright (BSN ’76) graduated from the School of Nursing, she achieved a lifelong goal of becoming a nurse so she could “give shots and help people.” As a child, however, she didn’t anticipate her quest to heal would take her from the United States to South Africa.
She worked with orphaned and abandoned children infected and affected by HIV at the Mohau Children’s Center in South Africa and says was a defining moment in her life. For three years she managed every aspect of maintenance for the children from supervising the caregivers and ensuring hygiene to education, food and safe housing.
“It was there that I understood the crucial role of a household where nurturing, loving and promoting individual development are inherent in the confines of a healthy home and family,” she explains. “Institutions are necessary yet fall short of these vital qualities.”
When she started to volunteer at the Mohau Centre, the administration was poorly executed and the motives of the founder were questionable. By the time she returned to the United States, Mohau had established a self-sustaining structure and hired directors committed to the children’s welfare. Significantly, these leaders were all native South Africans.
“Today the program has grown and many of the children are living in homes and neighborhoods where they are able to enjoy a more normal childhood,” she says. “Their new model provides the children a better chance for success and happiness.”
In addition to her nursing degree, Wright returned to school and obtained a nurse practitioner license. In that role the Salt Lake City resident has taken a dual role of provider and administrator for the 4th Street Clinic, where she helped the clinic prepare for and attain accreditation as a community health center and patient-centered medical home.
“I have grown to love my homeless friends, and it is an honor to work with them every day and strive to help them sit, stand, and eventually, walk through their complicated and exhausting circumstances,” she adds.
She has learned to love all of her opportunities to help people. “As a student nurse I thought that all of my service would be appreciated. The reality is that one needs to serve for the right reasons and not to worry about that recognition and thanks.”