Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A busy day!

Hola friends and family! This is Jordan and Lauren here to tell you about our long, but exciting day! We started our day early with breakfast with our host families. We met the rest of our group at the language school (casa xelaju) at 8 am. Our first trip was to the University Rafael Landivar where we met up with other students from the university and took a tour of their beautiful campus. We then went with them to an elementary school in the mountains. I don't know the name of the school, but I like to refer to it as the school in the clouds because we were so high in the mountains we were literally in the clouds! Here, we played with the kids in the school by coloring and playing with play-doh. We also brought them snacks and drinks. Because we couldn't communicate with the children very much, we got laughed at a lot. But they were so cute, we really didn't care. Their smiling faces and hugs made the long trek down the mountain to the school well worth it! (Our vans couldn't drive all the way to the school so we had to walk the rest of the way). I can't describe in words how happy I was when we were told that trucks were going to take us back up the mountain to where our vans were. And by trucks, I mean that we split into two groups and rode up the mountain in the backs of pick-up trucks. It was a very interesting experience! When we arrived back to the vans, all in one piece, we headed back to the university to have pizza. After saying goodbye to the university students, we visited the house of a midwife. We learned about her work with pregnant mothers and newborns. She talked about the importance of herbs during the birthing process to speed up contractions. She also has a sauna in her house in which the mother and her baby bathe together right after the birth. The sauna helps warm the baby, relax the muscles of the mother, and produce breast milk. After visiting the midwife, we had the opportunity to show off our soccer skills, or lack thereof for some of us, as we got to play with kids from an organization in Xela called Innerchange. We then had the pleasure to eat more pizza with the kids from Innerchange at their house. To finish our busy day, we went back to Casa Xelaju and watched a powerful documentary on a town called Santa Anita, which we will be visiting later this week. From this documentary, we learned that this town was formed after Guatmala's 36-year-long civil war. Many occcupants of this town were guerrilla fighters during the war, and after the war, they were able to buy land to start their own organic coffee farms. Overall, today was full of excitement, new and wonderful people, and pizza!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Un día de nuevas experiencias!

     Hola! Tara and Sydney here to tell you about our third day here in Guatemala! We began the day with breakfast at La Café RED and a talk on migration with a former guerrilla fighter. La Café RED is an organization that empowers young adults to educate themselves on fair trade and start their own companies. Their aim is to create a network of smaller and more connected businesses in order to combat the big businesses (McDonalds, Walmart, etc.) that negatively affect the Guatemalan economy. La Café RED is part of a larger organization called Desgua, which is a national organization dedicated to helping deported Guatemalans (who had grown up in the U.S.) transition to living in Guatemala. Willy, the former guerrilla fighter that spoke to us about this topic, is one of the co-presidents of the organization. It was truly eye opening to hear about the issue of migration from his perspective. Next, we walked to the local language school and spoke with Erica, a rural nurse who operates a small clinic out of her house. She taught us about the deficiencies of the Guatemalan health system; primarily that the clinics do not have the necessary supplies to treat patients because they do not receive enough money from the government. We also learned many astonishing facts about healthcare in Guatemala, like how you do not need a prescription to get any medication (besides antidepressants). The vast amount of information that Willy and Erica shared is hard to summarize in a blog post, but let's just say that many of us were feeling very challenged by the end of the morning.
     After hearing many difficult stories and discussing hardships it was nice to give our minds a rest and bailar!!! We learned how to salsa, merengue, bachata and cumbia. We had a lot of fun learning these cultural dances even though some people ended up with many bruised toes. From this experience we now know we will never be on Dancing with the Stars!
     To start the afternoon, we returned to our homes to eat lunch with our host families (a slight mishap as Sydney and I forgot what our house looked like and tried to enter a house that looked nearly identical). ¡Que horrible! We then regrouped and split in half. One group began with a drive to a small village outside of the main square. This is the group Sydney and I went with so we will share our experience with you. We had a short hike up a mountain with a stunning view of the city below. At the top of the mountain there was sauna Temascal, which is a traditional hot sauna. Prior to learning about the sauna, we learned about many different herbal remedies and natural medicines that some find very beneficial. For example, many of us cook with herbs such as basil and rosemary, however we did not know the countless benefits these herbs provide. We learned that rosemary can act as an antibiotic and can improve your skin tone. Basil helps menopause and improves coughs and sore throats. We also encountered native herbs to Guatemala, one even helps prevent kidney stones!
     After learning about herbal remedies we each got to go in the hot sauna with the woman who practices herbal medicine. She taught us how to cleanse ourselves by massaging our bodies with the herbs. Muy caliente!! The grandmother welcomed us into her home and made us tea after our turn in the sauna. We were truly inspired with all the love we received.
     We finished our day by regrouping and cooling off with some ice cream while reflecting on our experiences from the day. It was a day full of firsts, as it was most people's first time salsa dancing, weaving, and going in a hot sauna! By the end of the day we realized how important dissonance is, as we need to be pushed outside our comfort zones in order to grow. To our surprise, Sydney and I came home to an American Doctor who is volunteering at a local clinic who is also staying with our host family. Finalmente una persona con la que podamos hablar en inglés!!
     Unfortunately we cannot say much about the weaving cooperative, but the students who blog on Friday will share the experience with you! The people we met today were so open and made us feel like we were one of them. A quote from one woman that really summarizes our afternoon experiences at Sauna Temascal and the weaving cooperative is "My house may be small, but it has so much love for all."

 ¡Estamos cansadas, buenas noches!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Welcome to Xela!

Hola! Claire and Morgan reporting in. Due to the long day of travel yesterday, including a pit stop in El Salvador for some of us, we were not able to post to the blog. But here's a quick run down of our first day in Guatemala. We all arrived safely and were excited to explore the city. After a quick ride to the hotel, we went and got a snack then went to dinner with our teleclaboration partners. It was nice to finally meet them in person! Then we called it a night and hit the hay around 10.

Day 2: Started the day off at The Bagel Barn across the street from our hotel. Then we loaded the cars for a short road trip through the winding roads to Xela. The first stop we made was to participate in a Mayan Ceremony. During the ceremony, we made many offerings and prayers around a fire that was lit by candles and incense. We felt at peace with ourselves and each other along with feeling connected to family and friends in the present and past. After the ceremony we went to lunch at a little restaurant in town where we ate fruit, arrow, vegetables and meat. It was also the first time for many of us eating papaya. After lunch, we had a brief talk about the history of Guatemala from Fidel who has been our group leader. We furthered our knowledge from what we learned from the previous week at Xavier about the 36 year civil war and other political struggles the country has faced. Finalmente, with excitement and a little apprehension, we met our host Familes at the local school!! Once we met our families, we each went our separate ways and spent the evening hanging out and getting to know our families! For example, Claire and I got to go to the local supermercado and grocery shop with our mom and sister for dinner. Then we got to come back and help cook spaghetti with our family. To our surprise, we had a mini fiesta with two Mormon missionaries who are friends with our sister. Overall it was a great experience and we can't wait to spend the rest of the week with our family!

¡Checking out y adios!
Claire y Morgan

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!