Saturday, June 7, 2014

Therapist tour Antigua and others scale the volcano

Today, many therapists stayed back in Antigua and had a cultural day enjoying great food, shopping, and exploring the city. We all had great Guatemalan coffee with breakfast! We enjoyed walking around the city and observing and experiencing the culture. We got photobombed by a Guatemalan senior citizen and enjoyed a conversation with a Coratian barista who is living here and teaching English. On a fun side note, one of our therapists got to experience the thrill of driving in Antigua last night. Everyone was left unscathed :)

The rest of the team took a three mile hike up the volcano Pacaya. It was an interesting and difficult hike, but everyone felt accomplished at the end, and was rewarded with a beautiful view and roasting marshmallows in a crater on the volcano. As we started making our drive to go to the cemetery overlooking the dump in the city, there was an accident that stopped traffic completely. We had to change our plans and headed to dinner, but the decision was alright with everyone because we were all pooped from the long hike. We concluded our trip with everyone meeting and telling stories and sharing their experiences about the trip. Many emotions were shared and we all concluded how appreciative we were of this trip and how excited we are for our future as occupational therapists.

Final note from the trip leader:
What a great week! We learned so much. Guatemala is a beautiful country, the communities are so welcoming, the families and caregivers so warm and friendly, and the children so delightful. While our service sites thanked us again and again for the services we provided, it is we who were blessed in so many ways. We have stories to tell and experiences to share all of which will stay with us for a lifetime. Now, as we bid goodbye to Guatemala, we thank all of you back home for the support and resources you provided to make this trip possible. Your care and your concern allowed us to pass on our care and concern to those with whom we interacted and related. May the relationships we developed allow us to build even more bridges with our new Guatemala friends and may those bridges extend not only to our own community but reach across the globe.

Carol (Xavier University Program Chair and Guatemala Trip Leader)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Last Days of Service

Thursday was our third service day at Missionaries. The wheelchair team finished up three chairs and decked out Suzie's chair with racing stripes and all. While Suzie was waiting on her chair she was pampered, as any 18 year old would love, by getting her nails painted while listening to music and watching us crazy people dance and sing. Not quite sure if she enjoyed our singing, but some of us can really hit some good notes (not naming anyone specifically, but her name starts with a 'J' and rhymes with 'will'). Katie and I worked with the children in the OT/sensory room. Following our day with the children we finished with an hour of shopping at the market. We all found some awesome gifts, along with some goodies for ourself :) The day was not over as we had about 2 hours of work to do for our care plans for Missionaries. Although the day was long it was all worth it.

The ABI group took a field trip on Thursday to the Centro de Capacitacion Ocupacional (CCO), a center in Guatemala which serves mid- to high-functioning adolescents with a multitude of disabilities. At this center they learn important daily occupations, such as making their bed and putting away their clothes, as well as going to classes to learn the good ol' reading, writing, and arithmetic. After these classes are completed, the students are able to choose an occupation to specialize in, including cooking, bakery, craftsmanship, and janitorial skills. The center was a perfect example of practicing occupational therapy in a productive, functional way for those who may need it most. At the end of the tour, the children danced for us to practice for an upcoming recital they will put on for their families, and invited us to dance with them. It was the most fun immersive experience we've had all trip! The rest of the evening was spent using what we learned at CCO to construct plans and activities for the residents of ABI.
On Friday, the ABI group had a long meeting with the occupational therapists and managerial staff to discuss positive therapy plans for the residents and how to put them into motion. We were also able to present the therapeutic materials and tips on what more could be made. The staff and residents of ABI had prepared a small celebration, which included dances and gifts, to express their gratitude to us.

Friday was also a half day at Missionaries followed by a visit to Steve and Shyrel's (Amor Del Nino) to squeeze in some time cooing at babies. Today was an emotional day knowing it was our final day at our service sites, yet so rewarding. We ended the day celebrating Lisa and Rolando's soon-to-be new addition to their family with a surprise baby shower (complete with a Blue Blob cake)!

Written by:
Colleen C.-OT student
Krista F.-MOT

San Pablo

June 6, 2014
This blog is being written by Daryl’s group reporting live from the van.
On Thursday we traveled several hours in the mountains to San Pablo with no pee stops (an amazing task for eight women who drank many cups of coffee). Upon arrival, we immediately set up our equipment at a health clinic in the area. We had a variety of patients waiting for us, mostly older women with many aches, pains, and arthritis. This did not surprise us as we saw women carrying large loads of wood on their backs during our drive through the city. We also had a few very involved children that had Cerebral Palsy with severe contractures.
It seemed that we disappointed a few people because we did not have medicine to relieve their pain. We learned that many Guatemalans do not understand the difference between therapy and general medical care. One woman even came in with a completely broken arm. On the other hand, many of the patients were very appreciative of our time spent with them. They also really enjoyed seeing pictures of themselves when we printed out their care plans. One highlight of the day was when we were able to get a boy named Pablo to walk by himself for the first time. With the collaboration of an OT and PT implementing deep pressure, Pablo became aware of his proprioception and was able to walk. This made everyone happy that our hard work was paying off.
After a long day, we traveled to San Pedro where we spent the night in a nice hotel. San Pedro is a cute little hippie village on the shore of Lake Atitlan that caters to tourists. The next morning we traveled back to San Pablo for another day of therapy. This time, we worked in a church called Iglesia C.A. Siloe. We once again had many women with pains all over their body, and one child with an unknown diagnosis but had many signs of down syndrome. We also sent two therapists, Mily and Becky, and one student, Kylie, on a home visit to work with a blind and immobile man. The visit was a very eye-opening experience to see the close quarters that the people of San Pablo live in. They gave him a walker for support when he is transferring in and out of bed, and to help strengthen his muscles.
Now we are traveling home in more rain (shocker) down a steep mountain with no railing. It’s a wonder I can actually type right now. Don’t worry Mom and Dad, we will get home safe! Tomorrow is our last day, and we are really excited to climb a volcano and visit the dump!

Hasta manana!

-Megan and Kelly C. (Students from Daryl’s Group)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


The word of the day is "juxtaposition". We visited a middle school in a small indigenous village. We were greeted as royalty as students and teachers welcomed us graciously. The students prepared a day full of presentations about the history, culture, civil war, music, dress, and food. All the students wore "tipicas" or traditional Guatemalan dress. The students prepared for our visit for months it seemed, even making intricate kites full of colors and cultural symbolism. The students performed several traditional Guatemalan songs on the national instrument, the marimba. They were quite skilled. After a dramatic presentation on cultivating corn, the village women made chucharrones, tamales, atol, and tostadas for us to sample as a snack. After a few more presentations, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of beef stew, commonly made for formal celebrations, such as weddings, plus more tamales, vegetables, and the horchata (a sweet rice based drink). We walked through the village with the mayor, seeing typical housing, and the brand new road that went up the mountain. On our hike, we met the mayor's grandsons, who loved to take photos and run down the mountain. One of our translators adopted a stray kitten and has named it Xavier!

Upon returning to the school after our walk, the children demonstrated a sacred Mayan ritual to thank God and ask for safe travels for our return home. They first placed a pot with burning charcoal in the center and 2 designs of sugar on the ground on either side of the fire pot. After dancing and prayer, they sacrificed a rooster over the fire. The rooster lost its life on our behalf and we are grateful for the blessings bestowed on us for our journey. We feel we have made great friends with the Mayan people.

Note most Mayan children achieve a 6th grade education. About 50% of the middle school students continue their education through high school. During last testing at the high school, La Vega students achieved high scores bringing much pride to the village.

So the word of the day is "Juxtaposition" as we saw many modern influences on indigenous Guatemalans, such as painted toenails, black pumps, cell phones, digital cameras, and backpacks. But the most juxtaposition was us in the Guatemalan village. The people took note of and waved at us happily as we walked through the village.

Katie Slavik (OT Student)

Leah Dunn (OT Faculty)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Today we had a full and adventurous day. First of all, we are all safe and have not been affected by any mudslides. Our drivers and team leaders are constantly evaluating road conditions and weather in order to adapt as needed. Today we actually had sunshine for the first time since Sunday! If you don’t hear from us it is not due to any problems. We have been extremely busy and our wi-fi comes and goes.

We had a busy day at Daryl’s home. We set up a community health clinic, serving approximately 29 clients between our team of 4 therapists and 4 students. We treated a variety of clients and diagnoses – anxiety, fractures, strokes, cerebral palsy, back pain, etc. We were really forced to think on our feet and be creative while tapping into both our ability to address emotional and physical needs. Our students did a great job immersing themselves and becoming involved in the problem solving process. We met many clients with stories of their struggles to care for themselves and their families. Despite these struggles, they remained hopeful and were extremely grateful for any services we could provide.

Today was another busy but great day at Missionaries of the Highway. In the wheelchair room we saw five children with ages ranging from three to nine, most of which had Cerebral Palsy. I (Jillian) was exposed to so many new things today as I helped our practitioners dismantle and rebuild these wheelchairs in order to ensure the child was comfortable and properly positioned. The love and adoration the parents have for their children was extremely evident today as many of them waited for over two hours while we worked on their chairs. One particular patient we saw today sticks out in my mind because of the way he affirmed my decision to pursue a career in occupational therapy. This boy was nine years old with Cerebral Palsy, and he used a walker in the home in order to move around. His mother brought him to Missionaries today in a wheelchair that she used solely to transport him. We tried out a new chair for him that would allow him to self-propel with his hands. The second he was positioned in the chair he reached for the wheels and began to push himself around the clinic. The look of pure joy on his face is something that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my career.

After our work day, we visited Rafael Landivar University’s combined PT and OT program. They welcomed us to observe their classes. We watched group presentations on evaluating joint and muscle injuries. They attend clinicals in the mornings and attend classes from 2-5:30 pm. The students then joined us for dinner at our hotel where we were able to exchange how PT and OT are practiced within Guatemala and the United States. We each learned a lot about the differences that exist, including the challenges and positive aspects. For example, while the PT’s and OT’s in Guatemala lack many resources, they feel a strong connection to their patients and feel they can have a great impact on the lives of people who lack access to many forms of medical care. They report feeling appreciated and respected by their clients, who often look up to them and value their opinions.

Tomorrow we are off for new adventures, learning about Guatemalan culture at a local high school!

Marimily Thomas, OTR/L
Jillian Smith, OT student

Monday, June 2, 2014

First visits to service sites

Teams traveled to their individual sites for the first time today. Leaving bright and early to get a start on the day traveling to 3 different sites and teams immediately began service work once they arrived.
We traveled to Missionaries of the Highway today where children and families would come for scheduled appointments to learn new ways to care for the needs of their children: such as behavioral issues or wheelchair modifications. Staff and families were very receptive to all suggestions and recommendations made by the team. Although there was a language barrier, more often than not we were able to successfully communicate the necessary instructions for good follow through. Children enjoyed the activities and play time with the team with some even expressing their emotions very vocally.
The ABI site proved to be a challenge due to lack of resources but our team is resilient and is optimistic for change to follow our visit. At Daryl’s House the team was greeted with open arms by therapists and families alike.
We hope to continue to make improvements with all the children and families are working with.

Aimee Arkenau – Occupational Therapist
Liz Reilly- Occupational Therapy Student

Word of the day is WET

By Katie Hagen, Pediatric OT & Hillary Fritz, OT Student

Our expedition day included tear-wrenching local histories, trying our hand at making tortillas, and a LOT of water and bumps. We embarked on our magical school bus before 7 AM, with a stop for breakfast on the way to Lake Atitlán [look it up!] Several students and a few adventurous therapists, got to try their hand at making tortillas on a authentic tortilla brick & stone stove . We were all pleasantly surprised at the local food served – the beans, plantains, fresh fruit, orange juice, “café”, eggs and, of course, fresh tortillas were DELICIOUS!
The bus handled the switchbacks and curves up and down the lush mountainside with grace. Cows, indigenous Maya with wares and children draped over their bodies, and brightly colored cement houses dotted the side of the roads and highways. Our host, Steve, shared stories of his struggle against corruption involving adoptions of Guatemalan children, and the creation of his organization “Love the Child”.
Lake Atitlan was impressive with its three non-active volcanoes (San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan) and blue waters. During our ride, we learned a few local folktales surrounding the local landscape. One told of a prince and princess from neighboring, but warring villages that fell in love and would meet in the middle of the lake each night. But one day, the princess drowned. The prince continues to look for her each afternoon, and this causes the lake to become turbulent at this time of day. Once arriving across the lake in Santiago, we were transported in the local way – standing in the back of a Toyota truck retro-fitted with a “safety” bars. We learned from a local farmer of a mudslide that happened about 5 years ago, that decimated several acres of homes and took the lives of1,225 indigenous that were trapped by the mud. Since then, most of relocated to a safer side of the mountain – but some are so connected to the land that they remain in this place of “big rocks”, despite risk of landslide and volcano eruption. We also visited a local “Peace Park” that commemorated a massacre in the 90s of 13 local Maya that were engaged in peaceful protests by the Guatemalan military as part of the 36 years civil war. While we were having lunch at the peace park – the rains began – and they stayed STRONG.
We returned to our boats via our standing trunks down roads that had been transformed into rolling rivers in a matter of minutes. The boat ride back was wet, cloudy, and nearly as bumpy as the back of the bus – but everyone disembarked with smiles and a great attitude! We were again surrounded with local artisans selling their wares (beaded animals, handmade textiles, and bracelets) back at the Panajachel docks.
Off we went again our school bus, three hours back over the mountains, through winding, but well-paved roads, to a Maya ruin called Iximche. Iximche consisted of several uncovered mounds thought to be temples, ball courts and palaces. The mist added to the feeling of antiquity, and the general historical ambiance. We were again treated to a delicious dinner, at one of Steve’s favorite “Rancheros”, of grilled meats, potatoes, leeks and some ROCKIN guacamole! We returned safely to the beautiful Hotel Santa Ana, despite extremely tight squeezes, torrential rain, wet roads, and sharp corners in a very long school bus!

Steve Recommended Reading: 1492; Mountains to Mountains; To the Mountain and Back;
Hillary Recommends: Guatemalan Journey
Katie Recommends watching: “The Motorcycle Diaries” & “The

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 1 of the Great 2014 Guatemala Adventure

We’re here! All of the students, clinicians and faculty have arrived safely and are settling in in Hotel Santa Ana in Antigua. We’ve had a fascinating first day. Our hotel is beautiful—lush gardens, hammocks for relaxing, and a view of the mountains just by walking down the street. After we arrived at our hotel, many of us had time to walk the cobblestone streets to the Antigua market and Central Park. The buildings here are old, colorful and vibrant. It’s so historic and interesting!

Our drive out of Guatemala City was very educational. As we walked out of the airport, we were met by Steve Osborn and his friends, who drove us to Antigua in vans. The traffic was bumper to bumper, and comparable to when there is an accident on both I-71 and I-75. We were in miles and miles of traffic, on busy city streets. The trip was slow enough that we were able to see people going about their days as students, parents, shopkeepers, etc. We took note that many buildings were surrounded by rolled barbed wire, and that many places in Guatemala City (even small stores and fast food places) had armed guards. But, not to worry! Everyone we’ve met has been warm and friendly!
We were able to bring lots of donations (wheelchairs, walkers, therapy toys and equipment), so tonight after dinner, we spent some time organizing them and preparing for our first therapy day on Monday. Tomorrow we have a very full day planned including the Mayan ruins and Lake Atitlan. More to come!

Oh, yes, we promised you emergency contact numbers, and here they are. Carol Scheerer, OT Department chair, asks that you please use these numbers for emergencies only. Here they are:
Leah Dunn 502-4694-7737 Georganna Miller 502-4694-7762 Carol Scheerer 502-4694-7688
Steve Osborn (our in-country contact) 985-664-9641