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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Life School

Today was a busy day at our site. We arrived and got right to work with our students. Christine, Alyssa, and I (Lindsey) went to the kindergarten room and implanted our care plan of “circle time.” We then worked with 2 students in the therapy room, who absolutely loved the swings. Anne and Stephanie created classroom activities that the students in their room thoroughly enjoyed! Julia and I (Ava) worked with the first graders and their teacher. We set up a work system for one of the students to complete his work with independence. In the afternoon Julia, Alyssa and I (Ava) worked with a 3 year old boy and his mother on learning to feed himself. All of us were fortunate enough to be able to go on a home visit to see how the environment of families we were serving. We all were touched by the loving families who accepted us into their home. These experiences were truly moving. We are excited to work one last day at the New Life School and spend two more days in Guatemala despite our exhaustion!


Lindsey Derstadt, OT Student and Ava Koren, OTR/L
Today was a very emotional day at Anini. The team met Allan, a psychology student who is completing his clinical at Anini. Allan described his bond with the children and the love that he has for the children. To Allen this is not just his job but feels a love that is "greater than the love of his friends and family". It was clear to us that the children see him as a male model and even call him papa.

The team started the day out in Casa 1, which is the house for children with CP. Much of the time was spent in getting the children on the floor and on their bellies. During discussion, one of the students said "All we did was play with them." Which was the great comment considering the great thing about OT is play IS therapy! Audra (one of our OT's) went back to casa 2 to see the boys. She brought out the lycra and one of the children with severe autism immediately got up from laying on the floor and walked to Audra, so she could wrap him with the lycra. This was pretty amazing considering that he was able to communicate with us and he liked us! Two of the therapist, Valerie and Danielle, spent some time with a young lady with paraplegia. She is quite independent and one of her favorite (and important) activities is running (aka wheeling in her sport chair). She can transfer to and from mnay surfaces, but cannot transfer to her sport wheel chair, which she uses for olympics and PE. In the past, two of the nannies would pick her up and move her from one wheel chair to another. By the time that Valerie and Danielle finished working with she was able to transfer to and from her sport wheel chair with less help and more independence!!! The plan was to continue with education and practice tomorrow, but unfortunately she will not be there tomorrow because she is going to the children's museum.

There were many touching experiences today but these were just the highlights. We can't wait to go back tomorrow to see what we can accomplish on our last day at Anini. We anticipate that it will be a bittersweet departure, in that we are so happy on what we have been able to do to help the Nannies and the children at Anini, but also sad to have to go.

Danielle Braun, OT and Valerie Hill, Faculty
Today at the Public Health Station, we traveled 2 hours southeast towards the coast. We were at a much lower elevation which brought us much higher temperatures than Antigua. When we arrived, there were already people lined up ready for us. One man happened to walk by the building we were in and went back home to tell his wife to go where the “gringas” were to get therapy. We set up as quickly as we could and began seeing a wide variety of people ranging in age from 3 years to 85 years. We were all very quickly dripping in sweat as the temperature soared to over 90 degrees. Despite the heat and lack of equipment the students and therapists worked tirelessly until past our regularly scheduled lunchtime so we could see everyone that had been waiting to see us even before we had arrived. We experienced some heartbreak from the young boy who appeared to have cerebral palsy who had never been to a doctor and was so afraid of us, the malnutrition of the children, to the elderly people with arthritis and chronic pain who seem to be suffering so much yet need to continue the very hard activities that make up their daily lives such as washing their clothes by hand in the public washing stations. We also experienced some joys and signs of hope such as the little girl with partial paralysis of her right hand who couldn’t pick up a block when she walked in but was able to stack them before she left. Also the little girl who was in need of various different sensory experiences and discovered how much she enjoyed rolling a sensory ball on her arms and legs and when she was left alone she began using the ball on herself. Despite the nearly unbearable working environment, we felt good about what we were able to offer these people today.

Lorrie Kanoza, OTR\L and Emily Roell, OT student
This morning we were a little bit tired but excited for the day’s activities. Our first patient of the day in the wheelchair room was a wonderful lady that told us a story about the stars. Although most of us did not know Spanish it was a very touching experience. She was very thankful for the walker that we gave her and asked if she could pray for us. We all stood around her while she prayed for us and Rolando translated. It was a very emotional experience that brought tears to many eyes. Currently, Rolando is working on translating the story for us. We fixed several other children’s wheelchairs and Megan L did an excellent job adapting a walker to work for a sweet young boy. It was exciting to see him walk out of the building, using his new walker!

While some of the therapists worked on wheelchair adjustments, others had two of the boys on the floor, interacting while passing a ball back and forth. Despite their physical disabilities, they were able to grab the ball and pass it together.
We had lunch and the remainder of the day was slow in the wheelchair room because two children had surgery today and one young girl’s family car broke down and there was no other means of transportation to get her to the appointment. In the sensory room we saw a young lady whose caregiver was from Chicago. She moved to Guatemala and opened up an orphanage for children who are HIV positive. Her story and experiences were inspiring. It was so much easier to discuss the care plans with her because there was no language barrier!

Rolando brought his puppets today, all which have different disabilities. The kids loved interacting with the puppets, dancing with them and hugging them. We loved listening to Rolando sing “Who let the dogs out” while making the puppets dance. We are sad that tomorrow is our final day at Missionaries of the Highway, but very thankful for the many children and families we have been able to interact with. These experiences are ones that we know we will always remember!

Gina Knebel, Occupational Therapist
Brittany Schmidt, Occupational therapy student

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wednesday excursion: Mayan village


Today was an excursion day and we all went to a tradtional Mayan village Chichoy Alto in the city of Patzun. It was a two hour drive through winding roads to get to the village. When we arrived, we were greeted graciously by the entire village, which was very excited to show us their daily life. Also, we were able to see the work that Behrhorst Partners for Development(BDP) has done for this village in particular. This included the workshops for the women about nutrition, agriculture, and empowerment. We got to watch the women cook a nutritious meal with an ingredient called Ameranth. We even got to try some cookies that they made for us! We were then taken to one of the houses in the village to see the pump water system, latrines, gray water system, and stove that Behrhorst has provided for the families to improve the quality of life. Each family was also given a female goat to help provide for them. After seeing the house, we hiked down the incredibly steep slopes to see where the water was being taken from. This trek, which was very difficult, used to be made by women of the village who went to the stream to fetch over five gallons of water at least five times per day, carrying the water on their heads with babies on their backs. Now, the water is taken from the stream, filtered, and pumped to each house by the new water system. The villagers are extremely grateful for the asistance that they have received from the Behrhorst organization and were even more excited to show us how it has impacted their lives.

As the children waved goodbye, we headed to our next stop, which was a picnic-style lunch. After eating our wonderful lunch of pb&j sandwiches, we got news that we were getting the chance to try our luck at carrying our own water jugs on our heads! Although the jugs we carried were meant for children, and we only walked a few steps, the task was incredibly difficult, and gave great insight into the lives of the Mayan women. As children giggled behind us, we all tried to hold the jugs on our heads before we headed back towards Antigua.

We all met at the main market in Antigua for a bit of shopping. After an hour, we split up for short walking tours of Antigua, more shopping at the Artisian Market and/or a brief break before dinner. We ate at a beautiful and delicious restaurant. We enjoyed the company of our drivers, translators, and Steve for a wonderful evening with reflection of our day in the culture of the Mayan village.

Brittany (student), Alyssa (student), Babette (therapist), and Joan T. (faculty)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hola from the Public Health Stations! Today we had another very busy (but fun!) day. We started our morning visiting the health station in San Antonio where we worked yesterday. We were very excited to see a few familiar faces who returned for more therapy suggestions today. For one client, we were able to use the top of a platform walker to make a sock aide so that this man could put on his own socks, which is something he had never done before! After our morning of therapy, our site treated us to a traditional Guatemalan dish called pepian, which is chicken and rice covered in a teriyaki sauce. We also drank a traditional beverage made of rice, milk, and cinnamon sugar. We were pleasantly surprised because the mayor joined us for lunch!

After lunch, we visited Amor del Nino, a home that houses children, primarily infants and children under the age of four. This was a lot of fun, as we were able to play (and according to Mary, snuggle) with the children for a few hours. From the children’s home, we visited a local university where students are studying physical and occupational therapy. It was really interesting to see their facility and the differences in the school settings. While on our tour, we were permitted to observe a portion of a sign language class, and it was interesting to see how the Guatemalan sign language is different from American sign language. The therapy students that we visited then joined us for dinner, where we were able to talk about our programs and the similarities and differences between them. Overall, we learned a lot more about therapy techniques, but also the cultural differences between Americans and Guatemalans. We’d consider it a great day!

Adios amigos!

Ashley Luffred (OTS) and Mary Zbacnik (OTS)
New Life School

After a day of observation and getting oriented to the school and the Guatemalan culture, we finally got to work with the children at the New Life School. The school has a lot of excellent therapy equipment and today we showed the special education teacher and speech therapist how to utilize the equipment to help the children focus on thier schoolwork and excel in their learning. Alyssa and Lindsey worked with Christine to implement play into the kindergarten routine of pen and paper task seated in desks. Julia worked with Ava helping a little girl write her name on a vertical surface. Stephanie worked with Anne to help a little boy sit and focus in his first grade classroom. During the children's break, we played hopscotch and four square, and oh my gosh, did they love it! It was great seeing the children so happy to play something new. After lunch, Pat, the special education teacher, took us into town to see a 17 year old girl with cerebral palsy within her home setting. It was truly amazing seeing what is was like to live in the village. We also got to work with other children in the afternoon who only come to the New Life School for therapy purposes. We can already see improvement! Overall, it was a GREAT second day at our site.

Adios and Buenos Noches,
Lindsey, OT student, and Christine, OT
Hello tonight from Anini! Today was a short but busy day for us. There is currently a conference happening with all the diplomats from the America’s in Antigua (where we are staying). Thus getting out of the city was an adventure. Additionally, due to downtown Guatemala City traffic we took a long (2hour)detour around the city via the mountain countryside where we were able to take in the Guatemalan countryside. Once at Anini the students and therapist split up one-on-one to tackle the day. Myself, Megan, and student Paula fixed wheelchairs. There were three girls that we fixed footrest, seatbelts, chest straps, and brakes for at Anini. The students and the other therapists worked with the children who had sensory and behavioral issues. They worked on visual, tactile and oral stimulation, and fine motor skills. Additionally, the team tackled safe transfers for the care takers for the children. Overall, it was a short but successful day at Anini!

After Anini we were then able to visit Steve’s orphanage . At Amor del Nino we were able to play with the little kiddos and babies. Then after that we went to a local OT University to tour their classrooms and sit through short blurbs of their classes. Then after that…yeah we were busy…we had a few of the therapy students/faculty over to our hotel for dinner. At dinner we were able to talk one-on-one with the therapy students about their program, profession, and general daily life. Overall it was a busy and educational day! GO OT, black beans, and sleep!

Hasta Manana!

Megan Federle (OTR/L) and Emily Riepenhoff (OTS)
Missionaries of the Highways!
Hello Family and Friends,
Today we had another amazing day with the children and staff at missionaries. We again had two teams of students/practioner mixes. In the Wheelchair room was Gina Knebel, Megan Lessard, Lauren Krabacher and Megan O'Malley
and in the sensory room/oral motor was Kristen Galloway, Brittany Schmidt, Allison Jordan and Emily Mertz and Jessica Donohue was floating between the rooms. We were able to fit several children to chairs today, two of which were their first wheelchairs. They were not too happy to be in them at first but seemed to settle in well with lots of bubbles and singing to distract them. Their parents were very grateful. We had several children that had issues with feeding that were helped as well. We took photos and translated care plans for the parents to take home to help. One thing we found very interesting was that although two children received new chairs and parents were very thankful, telling us how helpful this will be for them, we did notice that the parents still carried the children out of facility pushing the empty wheelchairs.
We also had the wonderful opportunity to visit a universidad de Rafael Landivar which a school for occupational and physical therapy (when they graduate they will be certified in both!) We were able to sit in on 3 different classes, a lab where we practiced techniques with them, guatemalan sign language and sports medicine class. The Guatemalan students then came back to the hotel and we all enjoyed dinner together and spoke about difference with our professions in different countries. This was an awesome learning experience for all involved, we truly cherished this experience.

Hope all is well at home and until manana, buenas noches!

The Megans AKA Megan squared (or Lessard and O'Malley)

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Life School

Being welcomed by warm hugs was not what we expected when we were told their parents threaten them with "If you do that, the white people will take you and eat you" and "If you misbehave, the white woman will give you a vaccine." Great reputation here. After that first hug though, many others followed. All of our hearts melted. On our first day on site, we did not get much interaction with the children. Since it was a new site, our main objective was to gather information about the school, teachers, and past therapy techniques. We divided up into teams of three with a translator and observed. We asked the teachers about specific children and recorded suggestions we might have for later intervention. Also, we had a full tour of the site and sorted things in the therapy room. One memomrable moment was when we were taking pictures of the classrooms and the children approached us and asked to take pictures with them. They were also very excited to see the pictures afterwards. One funny moment I (Julia) had was when we put up the swings, someone needed to test them, and of course (!) I volunteered. Really?! Who doesn't want to swing and play?! However, I sort of got stuck in the swing to the point where Lindsey D. was pulling at me, and the driver even offered to help. I thankfully got out. I (Stephanie) saw the first therapy child today with Anne and Eva. The little boy was 3 years old and very smart! His mother was amazing, she answered any questions we had and helped us to direct her son to do certain actions. She helped us encourage her son and it was obvious that she was very involved in the life of her son. It was a pleasure meeting all the faculty, children, and the mother of the child we met today. All were more than accomodating to us and we are very excited for what the next few days have in store!

Julia Millburg and Stephanie Strelnik, OT students, giving a shout out to Garrsen (driver/translator) on his awesome navigational skills this morning and carrying a 50 lb bag all over for us....also hey mom and dad, still alive and kicking!

Public Health Station

First day of work, woo! We packed our vans with all the supplies we needed for the day, and our group headed to San Antonio to the municipal building which was our site for the day. In years past we have never gone to this site, so we didn’t know what to expect –how many people, what types of diagnoses, if we would have children and adults, what equipment we would need…the list goes on. Darrel was our driver, and we had four translators: Giovanni, April, Daniel, and Gerardo. Darrel was a pastor in a church in Ohio and brought his ministry and family here to Guatemala. All four translators work together with Darrel at his organization. Almost all of the clients that we saw today are families that Darrel and his team see once a month. Because we had never been there before, it helped us build rapport quickly and become comfortable because Darrel and the translators knew each of the families well. Our team consists of five students and six therapists. We were able to spend a good amount of time with each client, maybe 30 or 45 minutes, which meant we could be thorough in helping them and addressing their concerns. Some of the diagnoses we saw were spina bifida, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, trauma, encephalitis, herniated disks and stroke. The ages ranged from 1 year to 85. As a group we have so many stories from just one day of work, but we’ll share just a few of our favorite moments of the day.

One of my (aka Breanna) most memorable experiences of the day came with the first client I saw with Linda and Joan May. A young boy came in with his adoptive mother seeking help with speech. We tried to start with making him aware of his mouth and to move around his tongue. At first it seemed like quite a fail. We spoke too soon! As we sang to him and clapped our hands, his tongue started peeking out of his mouth and he smiled at his own success. Another minute passed and his tongue was moving all across of his lips! All of us were absolutely delighted; all he needed was some time to process what we had shown him. The gratitude and happiness of the boy and his mother was truly amazing and my joy was completed with a hug and kiss from each of them. What a blessed start to my day.

Today was filled with so many touching moments…I (Lindsey L) just want to tell them all. Before going into the municipal building we stood in a circle and held hands, and Joan said a prayer asking that God would be able to work through our hands today…definitely a great way to start our work. One of my favorite children to work with had a rare nerve condition, causing a lot of stiffness in his legs. He smiled the entire time we were working with him…he was just absolutely beaming. We did various exercises with him and the entire time he played with rainbow stackable rings…stacking them and unstacking them over and over again. I could talk about him all day but it’s late and we need sleep…buenos noches!

~ Breanna Lynch and Lindsey Logsdon, OT students

Missionaries of the Highway

After a delicious pancake breakfast, our group, consisting of Lauren Krabacher, Brittany Schmidt, Emily Mertz, Allison Jordan, Gina Knebel, Megan Lessard, Kristen Galloway, and Megan O’Malley, headed out with our driver Rolando to Missionaries of the Highway. Missionaries of the Highway is a clinic and residential facility for children with a variety of physical and mental disabilities. We divided forces and four of us worked in a therapy room on sensory processing issues and the other four made wheelchair adjustments. The workers at our site prepared us with a list of clients for all four days, which averaged 7-8 children in each room per day for 50 minute sessions.

Many of the children utilized the services in both rooms, including a delightful, young girl named Vivian who has Cerebral Palsy. Covered with smiles the entire time, Vivian loved playing with toys in the sensory room, specifically a ring stacking game. Every time Vivian successfully placed a ring on the wooden rod, a wide smile spread across her face, her arms flew out to the side, and she looked expectantly to everyone in the room, waiting for applause. Luckily Vivian was such a happy client, because her wheelchair repairs took several hours to complete. She and her mother patiently waited and were very appreciative for all that we did for them. Vivian left with a fully adjusted wheel chair, seating instructions, and a care plan from the sensory room filled with pictures and directions to continue her exercises at home.

Our day was filled with many good moments as well as a few less tasteful ones including Emily Mertz’s encounter with a one-year-old “Señor,” as Emily likes to call him. Trying to sooth his cries, Emily held “Señor” and was delighted to find puke on her shoulder that continued down her back. This incident did not appear to be enough for “Senor” and Emily, so they topped off the session with some puke on Emily’s other shoulder. Needless to say, she smelled like a baker’s dozen of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.
Throughout the day, we worked with six children in wheelchairs. We are ready to take on the three new wheelchair challenges that we already have waiting for us tomorrow, plus the others that are sure to arrive with each appointment. We have a full load of clients scheduled for tomorrow, and we cannot wait to pick up right where we left off.
As occupational therapy students, we have learned so much in only one day of service about what it takes to be occupational therapists. With limited resources, we must invent creative ways to meet the needs of each child. Hopefully tomorrow is filled with as many wonderful memories as today, if not more! (Though we could get by without any puke :)

Hasta Luego!

Lauren Krabacher, OT Student and Rachel’s sister
Brittany Schmidt, OT Student and Baller

Cuidad Anini

Our first day of working at Cuidad Anini, a children's home, consisted of a tour of the facility. The residents there range from ages 1-54 and are split into 6 different houses. Casa 1 houses babies and children with cerebral palsy. Casa 2 is a boys home including several men with Down's Syndrome and Autism. Casa 3 is the "Princess House," with all women with similar conditions that the boys in Casa 2 had. Casa 4 housed people with more mild conditions who even do a variety of jobs and chores around the facility. Some even have jobs outside of the home. People with severe conditions live in Casa 5, where much of our work is needed. The last Casa, Casa 6, includes children who take part in a chorus, Special Olympics, and more. After our awesome tour, our team decided to tackle the wheelchair problems in Casa 1. A lot of mechanical work was done adjusting brakes, and properly fitting the children into the wheelchair. While working on wheelchairs, the children were taken out, placed on mats, and participated in therapy. Students were very helpful during this time to entertain and play with the children. The power of play is super powerful.

Paula helped entertain a child named Clara who seemed very disconnected from the room at first. Danielle, a therapist, quickly learned that she desperately needs and loves movement of any kind. Simply moving her arms around by dancing and singing while she was still in her wheelchair caused her to yell out in joy. Paula felt that she was able to genuinely connect with Clara.

Carly was drawn to a baby named Sebastian with a shunt. His development is really coming along great and Carly sang and danced with him. As Carly sang the Spanish children's songs, he was so adorable as his danced along in his crib. Brittany Hicks also took him out of the crib and engaged him in rolling around and laying him on his stomach. This position will help him build up strength in his arms, neck, and back that are not engaged in the crib.

Jessica Handwerk worked with a very smily, happy child named Walter. He was around 8 years old with cerebral palsy. He thought the bubbles that Jess was blowing in his face were hilarious. He was also very ticklish and joyful. Jess really connected with him by administering some simple therapy of gradually squeezing his arms and legs. This applied pressure really relaxed him.

Emily Riepenhoff played with Rogelio our whole time there. She was automatically engaging with this child. He appears to be about a year old, but is truly 5 years old. He was severely malnourished as an infant and develops at a much slower pace. He was very interactive and Emily and him made a great connection.

Written by Paula Vogelpohl and Jessica Hanwerk, OT students
Shoutout to our awesome friends, family, and roomies!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today was a event-filled day! First, we had wake-up call at 5:30 am, some of us earlier thanks to the roosters, and then we left the hotel at 6:00 for our big adventure to Lake Atitlan. On our way, we stopped for breakfast at a breakfast buffet in Tecpan, which was delicious. Some of us even had the chance to make our own tortillas! After breakfast, we continued the bus ride to the lake. The drive there was beautiful and we were able to see many different sites, including a huge waterfall.
Once we arrived at the lake, we had a student presentation about the lake and then we boarded the boats. The captains took us across the lake to the other side. Over there, we all hopped in the back of some trucks and drove around town. We made a stop to see some Guatemalan women washing clothes and then we continued on to the Peace Park. Here, we heard another student presentation and we also heard from some native Guatemalans about their opinions on the war. They didn't want to say too much though because of the influence the United States had on the whole thing and also because it is a very touchy subject for many Guatemalans since many of their friends and family were killed in the violence. We also ate lunch there, which we found out it is actually a Guatemalan honor to eat where loved ones are buried.
After lunch, we jumped back in the trucks to travel to a church. It was a beautiful church and very large as well. We didn't stay long because we wanted to make sure we had time to make it to the Mayan ruins. When we were finished at the church, we were able to walk down the street a bit to see an alfombra in celebration of Corpus Christi. We also saw some men setting off fireworks in the middle of the street to celebrate. We then walked back to our boat, with a couple stops for shopping in between. The boats were then boarded and we headed back across the lake to our bus.
After our adventure to the lake, our bus driver, Mike, took us to the Mayan ruins, Iximche. Although it was raining the whole time we were there, it was still an amazing site to see. We were able to see some of the temples, the ball courts, and the altar in the back where Mayan rituals still take place. There was actually a ritual earlier this morning so when we arrived all the candles were still lit from it. We also did our third and final student presentation for the day here.
Around 5:00 pm, we, once again, boarded the bus to head home. However, before arriving home we stopped for dinner at a steakhouse. Huge platters of meat were placed in front of us, so we were able to try a little of everything such as steak, sausage, chicken and pork chops. The lemonade there was also delicious!
Finally, we came back to the hotel. We met with our teams and then some of us went to bed, the others packed lunches for tomorrow, and the rest finished up packing our therapy suitcases. But now it's time for bed for us all because we have a busy day tomorrow visiting our sites for the first time!
Kristen Galloway, OT Student
The remaining 10 people checked-in to the hotel around midnight and are troopers for having a 6:00 am departure time today. We are off to Lake Atitlan and the Mayan Ruins. Oh, here are some photos from our donation room last night...lots of thanks to everyone who donated.

Emily Mertz, OTR/L

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Just an update that two more students from the 7:20 arrival made it in to Guatemala, Brianna and Megan O. The last 10 people are in-flight and their pick-up is arranged. Joan and Darvy are already at the airport patiently awaiting their arrivals.

Buenas Noches,
Valerie Hill (Faculty)
Unlike everybody else my flights went smoothly. All early arrivals with perfect timing. This will be my third year working here in Guatemala and I am excited to see some familiar faces! Let the ADVENTURES begin! :o)
-Megan Federle MOT, OTR/L

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hola from Guatemala!

Xavier faculty made it safe and sound yesterday. We hit the ground running and have visited all of the sites that we will be serving this week. We have more work than ever and are excited for all of the opportunities. We are grateful for everyone who is supporting this experience. Steve, Rolondo and Lisa have been taking good care of us thus far and we look forward to all of the others we will meet in the days to come.

We are eager for the rest of our group to show up. Safe travels to all travling tomorrow! Be prepared for an experience of a life time!

Valerie Hill

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Guatemala 2013...Let the adventure begin!!!

Hello blog followers!! We are all looking forward to this wonderful experience together! We spent the night packing up suitcases full of donations. Some of the items to mention include multiple Rifton chairs, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, chocolates, wheelchair parts, diapers and baby wipes. I personally have 50 pounds of diapers and baby wipes in my suitcase :) as well as I will be walking through the airport with a pediatric reverse walker.

For peace of mind for our followers, the faculty and leaders will be heading to Guatemala on Thursday with the rest of us coming in on Saturday. The goal of this blog is to send updates daily but please remember that "no news is good news" and that the internet may just be down when we tried to blog and we will follow up when we can.

We appreciate all of the support, well wishes and love that we have received from everyone and we all want to say 'Thank You' to you.

Emily Mertz, OTR/L
"Blog Co-leader"