Sunday, June 5, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Today was our last day in Guatemala. We started the day off early by climbing a volcano. As the rain cleared, we were able to see the top of the volcano and the steam off the lava rocks. Since the trip up the volcano was exhausting, we got the chance to roast some marshmallows on lava rocks. There was even a nice little shop set up on the top of the volcano with lava jewelry! After "lava surfering" all the way down the volcano, we loaded the bus and headed to Villa Nueva to hear about the ministry and services the Cerrito family provide. We, then, headed to a cemetery that overlooked the dump in Guatemala City. This landfill is the largest in all of Central American and provides a way of living for an estimated 11,000 people. It was an extremely impactful site to see and many of the students were moved by the experience as we watched the people working in the landfill. After a fully packed day, we sat down to our last group dinner as a group at a restaurant called Adobe. We ate a lot of guacamole and chips there!      

Olivia (student)

 Picture of group inside lava cave as we hiked up the volcano. 

As our last day of the service learning week comes to an end, as trip leader I want to thank you, our families and our friends, for reading our blog and for all your support in helping making this experience happen. Tonight, as we met together as a large group for the last time, one of the students observed that we have been challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally, yet, just as equally rewarded. Our world has broadened, we've made new friends, we've reached out and walked with the children of Guatemala, their parents, caregivers, professional staff, and paraprofessionals. For sure, our lives have been enriched. In turn, we are confident we are more prepared to enrich the lives of others. What a privilege and what an awesome week!

Carol (occupational therapist and trip leader)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hi everyone! Kate and Jean here. Friday was an awesome day of service learning! We had the opportunity to meet individuals in residential programs, in their homes, and at an outpost clinic. I (Kate) went to ABI on Friday. We did lots of consultant work with the other professionals at the facility, which was a really different way to practice occupational therapy! At the end of the day, the residents put on a show for us. There was singing, dancing, and we were all given a certificate and a goody bag. Although we were sad to leave the residents, it was an awesome end to the week!

Jean here! Our group travelled 5 ½ hours to an outpost clinic, Canilla, seeing gorgeous countryside on the way.  We had the opportunity to meet the PT who works at the clinic, hear her stories and work with 20 of her patients and families. We learned about interprofessionalism as we collaborated with nursing, PT, OT, and wheelchair experts to provide care for the patients. We met the cutest kids, beautiful adults, and sweetest families. At times we needed two interpreters to translate from K’iche to Spanish then from Spanish to English. Our hosts were incredibly generous providing us with scrumptious Guatemalan meals and showing us nearby Mayan ruins; all within 24 hours!

The third group ecstatically reported their fantastic experiences working with individuals and family members in their homes. What a great opportunity to be truly immersed in the culture here!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Last Day of Service

Today was our last day of service for all three of our groups! Everyone had an amazing week working beside Guatemalan therapists and working with the children here. We all have fallen in love with the beautiful smiles and laughs of the kids and we hope to remember these moments forever. Daryl's group arrived back in Antigua safely this evening after their rural trip 5 hours away. Everyone is safe and sound here at the hotel. We are ready for a fun last day tomorrow to enjoy the beautiful sites in the country of Guatemala.

Allison (student) & Kathleen (student)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

We are on a Mission!

June 2, 2016
         Coming to you from Nora (practitioner) and Leeah (student)!  Daryl’s group began their day early this morning as they traveled 5 hours away to provide services at an outpatient clinic in Canila. The group has been in contact and said they arrived safely and had a wonderful day as they got the opportunity to visit Mayan ruins. Back in Antigua, Missionaries of Highway and ABI’s group also had an eventful day! The Missionaries group split up as half of the group went on home visits and the other half worked at the clinic. Stacia (practitioner) Leeah, Sarah, and Rolando (translator) traveled throughout the community to check in on the homes of three children from the clinic. At each home, the group evaluated the environment and helped implement programs to make each home more accessible for their child. The group was able to provide the homes with play mats and a care plan that included exercises the children can work on at their home. In one of the home visits, the group worked on adapting and modifying a child’s wheelchair for three hours! It was very rewarding to see the final product and the smile on the sweet child. The group learned a lot today and is planning on visiting six more homes tomorrow!

      While half of the group attended home visits, Nora (practitioner), Valarie (practitioner), Lauren, Kylie, Allison, Ashley, and Giovanni (translator) remained at the outpatient clinic. We had the opportunity to integrate speech & language-based services (Nora, SLP) with the OT services for the kids, moms & clinical staff.  We were able to provide training and support for the families and clinical staff.  These included tooth brushes, coloring books, sensory tools to calm the children and ideas for school and home use. In addition, Valarie was able to reunite was a previous child that she worked with last year! We are very excited to follow up with the kids tomorrow to check on these skills being used in the classroom. 

      In the evening, the ABI group was able to get a tour of a chocolate factory in Antigua and even nibbled on some free samples! After dinner, the whole group celebrated a very special 21st birthday with a delicious, local Oreo cake for our translator and partner Brittany! Overall, we all had a good day and are very sad that tomorrow is our last day of service. Nevertheless, we are very grateful for this opportunity to work with and learn from the children of Guatemala. Check in on us tomorrow for another fabulous blog report! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cultural Day

Blog: June 1, 2016
Hi all! This is Sean (a student) with today’s update of our Guatemalan adventure! Today, we took a break from our service sites to engage in some cultural experiences. First, we visited a Guatemalan junior high school (grades 7, 8, and 9) called Amigos Por Siempre (Friends Forever). Xavier groups had visited the school in the past, and it was great to see their enthusiasm to see us again. They welcomed us with some traditional songs and dances performed by their students, and we then split off into three groups to tour the campus. The students and faculty graciously showed us numerous aspects of their Mayan culture; such as Mayan math, tortilla making, weaving, and traditional alfombras used to celebrate the holiday of Corpus Christi. In all of their demonstrations, everyone at the school was incredibly courteous and enthusiastic, and we thoroughly enjoyed learning from and sharing with the students and faculty. After completing our tour, the school concluded their program by performing a traditional Mayan ceremony to honor our visit (but they trimmed it down a bit by skipping the chicken slaughter from a couple years ago). We were all very honored that they shared all of this with us, and as a thank you, we presented Amigos Por Siempre with several donated materials, most importantly a projector from Xavier’s IT department. The faculty was incredibly thankful for these gifts, and it was a great way to close our visit to the school!

Hola mis amigos!  This is Valerie (Occupational Therapy Practitioner).  In addition to our visit to La Vega, we got to visit some Mayan ruins and visit downtown Antigua.  At Iximche (the Myan Ruins) we learned more about the history of the Mayan Civilizations here in Guatemala.  We walked through 5 different plaza’s (as they were called) over 2,000 square kilometers which housed 200 royal family members.  Towards the back plaza, we were able to actually see a Mayan ritual in progress by a local Mayan priest.  We were unable to take pictures of this sacred practice but it was very cool to be able to observe from a distance as they prayed and offered various items (candles, food, alcohol) to the Mayan Gods.  After the ruins, we were able to shop at the local artisan market and spend some quetzales (their local currency) to buy some handcrafted items.  After the market we ate at a local restaurant called Epicure which is a farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Antigua.  This restaurant is owned by an American couple who uses the restaurant to train and provide meaningful jobs for the locals.  In addition, they have opened and currently run 4 different schools for local children which is so needed in this community.  We were happy to meet this couple and hear their story and support their mission.  Now, after a long day, we will say Buenos Noches as we are all VERY tired!  We are off to our services sites again tomorrow.     
Signing off,
Sean (Student) and Valerie (Occupational Therapist)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Extra Extra: Second Day of Service Report!

Hola, parents and friends!

This is Rakhi (Occupational Therapy Practitioner) and Allie H. (Occupational Therapy Student). Today was another great day of service at all of our sites!

Reporting from Daryl's house:
Today we worked with numerous kids with disabilities from the community. It was great to interact with the kids and to help them improve their daily occupations. We had a successful system working which included teams of six. We had two therapists (occupational therapy and speech therapy) along with a translator and three students. While this group of six was hard at work, the other three students played with the children who were waited to be seen. We read books to the children, talked with them, and more!
The therapy sessions went very well. The clients were able to learn a lot along with the students. The therapists were in charge, but the students were able to provide their feedback and step in a lot during the sessions. We also made sure to make the care plans simple and understandable for the clients and their parents/caretakers. We made sure to demonstrate and teach the parents/caregivers about the treatments so that they could be continued at home. Our goal was to help these individuals, while also providing sustainability in the care plan so that the children can continue to improve. It was a great opportunity as a students to be able to learn numerous new techniques and ideas for our future careers.
There were a variety of different clients today! We saw many children who were experiencing extreme spasticity. We worked on various techniques with these children such as using a warm wash cloth to help the children open their hands. We also helped another child with mobility by using a therapy ball on which to roll back and forth. This can help with feeling and awareness in the feet. Next, we helped a child with feeding techniques.
It was really amazing to engage with all of these different children! It was a long day of hard work, but well worth it. Helping these children was beneficial for them and to our education. We were able to evaluate, problem solve, make a plan, and provide the families with instructions to continue the therapy practices.
-Allie H.

Reporting from ABI:
This is my second year as a practitioner at ABI, where we have now served for three years. The residential facility has surely made remarkable improvements each year, and the love for the residents is obvious with a core group of staff and caregivers dedicated to giving each resident a fulfilling and meaningful life. This year, the facility has entrusted our group with attempting to problem solve some very sensitive subjects, and we are honored to have gained the respect and confidence of the staff at ABI in order to gain this trust. In addition to the facility being more candid regarding pre-existing issues, the expansion of the facility has presented new and different challenges. I have been impressed by the students' maturity and insight while helping to address our difficult issues. Some of my proudest moments from today were watching the students interact whole-heartedly with the residents and being at-the-ready with songs in Spanish, choosing appropriate interventions and grading interventions to resident abilities, and working through difficult challenges with grace in the company of older and more seasoned professionals. I look forward to working with all the students in class next year as they continue to develop their therapeutic skills and techniques.

Monday, May 30, 2016

First Day of Service

Yo te cuido (I got your back), the highs, the lows, and everything in between for our first day of service.
The morning started off with students being shipped out to three different sites. Bright and early at 6:45 am, the students and therapists for Missionaries of the Highway loaded their van with wheelchairs and supplies.  After them, the other 2 groups headed their separate ways, one to Daryl's Home and one to Abrigo Y Bienestar Integral (ABI) which was an hour and a half drive to Guatemala City.

Each site had its unique opportunities and challenges. The day was filled with emotional highs and lows as well as moments of concrete solutions and ambiguity. Those at Missionaries of the Highway pieced together wheelchairs to fit children's specific needs. They also collaborated with on-site therapists, teachers, and/or caregivers to problem solve and create strategies for improved participation and performance in daily living at home and school. There was one particular high moment for all the therapists and students at Missionaries of the Highway. It came about at the end of the day when a little boy had already received occupational therapy for fine motor skills and then needed his wheelchair adjusted. It was going on 4+ hours and he patiently endured the entire team of 9 working away on finishing final adjustments. Even though he was becoming tearful, sweaty, and tired at the end of the session, he drove away in his parent's pickup truck with windows rolled down and biggest smile on his face.

At ABI students were integrated into the site by observing staff conduct therapy, walk through the residents' daily routines, and develop an understanding of the needs of the facility, staff, and residents.    Since Xavier's last experience at ABI, the facility has expanded and refined its services to its residents.  They have done this through diversifying service into 3 separate sites including the ABI residential facility, the Annex (which is dedicated to sensory and educational needs), and the Independent Living Program. Learning the background of some of the residents was difficult to take in, but important to put everything in perspective. Students look forward to helping the site further develop their programming.

Through it all, it has been an adventurous first day! And through it all, yo te cuido ("I got your back"- our favorite saying). We are in this together and are excited for the next days of service.

Signing off:
Kathleen (Student)
Sara-Ruth (Occupational Therapist)