Saturday, June 8, 2013

From the Trip Leader

Wow! What a week it has been. We laughed, we cried, we saw hope, we saw despair. All the while, the people of Guatemala were so caring, so gracious, and so generous. The children, especially, touched our hearts. Additionally, their caregivers earned our utmost respect and awe. As we worked together, our efforts were a blessing and appreciated by many. Yet, surely, we, too, were blessed and we learned so much. Now, we look forward to reuniting with our family and friends knowing our lives will be different as we refelct on our time together and discern how to best keep the experience alive.

On behalf of Xavier University and the Department of Occupational Therapy we thank you for the support and caring that made this service learning trip possible.

Best regards,

Carol Scheerer, Trip Leader
Associate Professor and Department Chair
Xavier University
Today is our last day and was quite interesting! Many of us climbed our first volcano, Picaya! It took us about 2 hours to climb nearly to the top. There were lava rocks, heat vents where we roasted marshmellows, and a heat hole that felt like a sauna. After our volcano high, we faced a new reality with visiting a neighborhood in Villa Nueva and the dump in Guatemala City. The community of impoverished families are faced with gang violence and challenges providing basic needs. Despite the despair, the community is close knit. There are programs available to help the individuals develop faith, education, and work skills. The dump was eye-opening to say the least. The dump looks similar to those in the US. However, when the dump trucks bring the trash in, they dump in rows and individuals make a living scavenging through the trash to find items to recycle and sell. Guatemala counts on these individuals to sort through the trash and provide a recycling system of sorts and they count on the dump for their livelihood. We also met Shorty, a preacher, who is a former gangster. He is helping individuals all through Guatemala turn their lives around. We ended our day with a nice dinner celebration with the students, practitioners, faculty, translators, drivers, and other new friends. Overall, we had another emotionally charged day full of education and inspiration.

Shout to all of our translators, drivers, and new friends: Steve, Rolando, Lisa, Darvy, Gerson, Diana, Darryl, Alex, Ileana, Hubert, Huego, Edwin, Daniel, Gerardo, Avril, Shorty, Rafeal Lanavair OT/PT students, the hotel staff and to all of our sites!!! Thank you to everyone!

Thank you for following our journey! It has been a great week!
Valerie Hill (Faculty)

We split into two groups today in which one group went to the Volcano and the other stayed in Antigua and went to Marina Guirola. Our group (Emily Mertz, Megan Federle, Babette Northop, Joan May, Lorrie Kanoza, Linda Hanson, Lauren Krabacher and Carly Hartman) were the second option. The day started off going to Cerro de la Cruz and taking pictures that look like we are flying over the city :) We then headed to the market where we got to hear "Business is business" multiple times and were able to find lots of treasures to take home. Once at Marina Guirola, we were able to see all of the children that have touched our hearts so many times during our trips. Once I (Emily) walked in, one of the patients from last year came out in his new power wheelchair and came up to me. It was wonderful to see his smiling face again. As a group, we decided we wanted to help him walk so with four people helping, we assisted him out of his wheelchair and assited him in walking down the hallway. It was remarkable to see his smiling face while we assisted him. After we helped him with walking, the nuns asked us to help other children walk also in which we were more than happy to do. I will never forget all of their smiling faces once they were "walking" with us.

We ended our day going to the city dump and seeing the many people who go down there for their daily supplies to assist in making a living. It was here that I saw bone of bodies (due to the families not paying the rent on the tomb anymore so the bodies were evacuated), voltures flying over the trash and seeing many people down in the dump while it was raining. This was a very humbing experience. I also appreciated "Shorty" coming to talk to us about his past experiences including living in the slums, being a gangster and a drug dealer and how Christ has came into his life to turn his life around and to assist others. Thank you Shorty for sharing with us.

This was my second year of going on this trip with Xavier and I look forward to many more.

Emily Mertz, OTR/L

Friday, June 7, 2013

Public Health station of SiPacate
Another day where we traveled over 2 hours to our site near the coast. After we dropped off the equipment we promised yesterday, we drove about 10 minutes further and arrived at our destination. There were several people waiting for us when we arrived. We treated about 20 people today including mostly children and a few adults. There were several children who were malnourished. One group of three children from a family had a boy of 8 years, a second boy of 5 years and a girl of three years who were all approximately the same size (the typical size of a 2 - 3 year old in the United States). The primary concern today for treatment included focus on feeding, walking and memory. Additionally, we had two deaf children. Each of the individuals came with family members with unique and interesting stories.

Because we were so close to the coast, we decided to take a short detour to the beach. Although we were only about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, it took about 10-15 minutes from our site to arrive at the beach. The beach is black coarse sand (like Italy if you have ever been there). Since we had a 10 minute time limit, we were just going to get our feet wet and leave. The waves were HUGE! One wave took our group by surprise and most of us had the two hour drive back with very wet pants. It was definitely worth arriving back for dinner an hour late. We enjoyed the people we treated, the ocean and the opportunity to learn from each other as therapists and future therapists.

Joan T. (faculty) and Breanna Lynch (student)
ANINI Day 7 - We wrapped up our wonderful week at ANINI, finalizing our care-plans for the children, the tias, and the facility. The guiding theme for our week was to remember that change starts small. Speaking with the practitioners who have spent time at ANINI in the past, it was clear that much progress has been made since our first years there. While there is still much progress to be made, it is important to remember how far ANINI has come, rather than focusing on how far there still is to go. We all enjoyed our experiences at the site this week, and as mentioned yesterday, we were all particularly touched by the work that Allen has done in his short time at ANINI. He is a sign of hope for the continued progress being made at ANINI and we look forward to receiving updates about the children. It’s rewarding to know that ANINI is a site that Xavier continues to visit year after year, and our team was glad to be a part of its evolution.

Carly Hartman, OT/S, Audra Moore, OTR/L, and Maura Hofherr, OTR/L
New Life School

Adventure day numero siete on June 7th! woooo! Today, we mainly wrapped up all the loose ends. I (Julia) started out my morning finishing up and printing care plans. The previous day, Christine, Anne, and I met Enselma, a woman who suffered from a stroke. Today, we got the chance to give her a new wheel chair, some socks, and a pair of tennis shoes so that she could have more stability when walking. The smile on her face is an image that I will never forget. Also, I was able to give away my Spanish book to a child. I gave it to a boy who is deaf. First I signed my name to him then read my book, signing the words I knew, while he read along. When I told him that he got to keep the book and take it home, the look on his face was as if I was joking. I told him again and he just smiled and smiled and smiled. :) It made my day!!! Stephanie and I (Anne) gave baskets to the first and second grade teachers that included suggestions and materials for using manipulatives in the classroom, and we reorganized desks in the classroom. Also, we made a individual picture schedule for a student. Touching moment: Mirna, a girl with Cerebral Palsy, got to take a bath in the J chair that we dropped off yesterday; she truly enjoyed it. We were very sad to leave all of our students; however, we are glad we got to have the experiences. Even though this was the first year that a group was able to visit the New Life School, we have many ideas for the future Xavier groups. We hope they continue going to this site.

Julia Millburg, OT Student and Anne Gibbons, OT
Giving a shout out to Joe, Darren, Gus, and Ben!!! :)
anndddddd Lauren B!
Missionaries of the Highway- We went to Missionaries of the Highway for the last time today. During the day, we worked with about 10 children. Most of the children required assistance with sensory integration and oral motor skills. Leaving at 1:00 PM, we ended our day earlier than the past three days. We said goodbye to the therapists and staff, leaving them with a thank you note, group picture, and chocolates we brought from home. Our next stop was Amor del Nino, an orphanage, where we had the opportunity to observe and play with the children who loved having us there. We made a quick stop at Cera de la Cruz to take some awesome pictures of Antigua. Dinner was at 6:30 PM and we are headed to bed shortly to rest up for our big day at the volcano tomorrow! Hasta luego!
Lauren Krabacher, OTS
Allison Jordan, OTR/L