Saturday, June 6, 2015

Closing Notes

What a week it has been. A week filled with service, a week filled with learning, and a week full of many heart-felt interactions. The people of Guatemala are beautiful as is the country in which they live. Now, we leave to return home to you our family and friends invigorated, renewed, and with a new appreciation for a world beyond our daily routines. Thank you for your support, your caring, and your interest as we, therapists and students, worked together to make a difference in the lives of others.

Carol Scheerer (trip leader)
Chair, Occupational Therapy
Xavier University

This is Only the Beginning...

After an early morning start (6 am) we ate a quick breakfast and hit the road for Pacaya Volcano. We were greeted by our guide, Felix, walking sticks, and started hiking the not so flat trail. It took us 1.5 hours to get to the top, with many stops on the way. Once we got to the mouth of the volcano, there was a shop that sold jewelry made with volcanic rock that supported the local communities. We also got to roast marshmallows in a hot spot of the volcano. The group then started the trek down Pacaya, which took us about an hour through the pouring rain.

After the volcano we went to the poor, urban village where some of our interpreters live and work, Villa Nueva. They showed us their facilities and a workshop, which is the place where many of our purchases were made; it supports the women's group of the mission. The mission is called City of Refuge which supports families in need within the community. They also have a chicken coop to help feed the refugees they support, and give them something to sell for the mission.

From Villa Nueva we went to a local cemetery. Here we learned that in Guatemala it is tradition to bury individuals above ground in mausoleum style graves. We also learned that for poor families who can only afford to purchase their loved ones a single grave, it is required they keep paying or their remains will be removed and put in a mass grave. While driving through the cemetery, we stopped at a location to look at the main dump in Guatemala, El Basurero. While approaching the location, we could already smell the odor of 24 football fields worth of trash, and see vultures overhead. Here, 4,000 people work daily between the hours of 6am-6pm. The workers are respected as much as the trash they sort through, but it is considered a good source of income for many without formal education. The average daily income is $3-$5.

We ended the day with pizza and cake to celebrate LEAH'S 50TH BIRTHDAY!! This has been an amazing and life changing week for us all. We are all inspired to do more, so this is only the beginning.

Meaghan Baker (student), Natalie Schultz (student), & Maura Valley (student)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Occupation at its best

Today we ventured to CCO, a government run program that provides children 14-18 with specific job and life occupations training, such as, cosmetology, baking, cleaning, special Olympics, and regular classroom studies. We enjoyed delicious bread made in the facility by the students. Xavier students joined in a soccer game and dance class. Xavier students and practitioners were impressed and thought it would be nice to see more places like this in the U.S. that help people with disabilities transition into daily living.
Despite the traffic that was worse than crossing the Brent spence at 5pm, we made it to Steve's home, Amor del NiƱo (Love the Child). Steve welcomed us into his home where he and his wife care for almost 50 children under the age of two and they facilitate adoption in Guatemala. Their home serves as a model for other children's homes in Guatemala. As you can see in the pictures posted along with this blog, they have a beautiful home filled with everything needed to care for and love these children.
To finish up the day, we ate at various restaurants around town. Some of us also enjoyed a tasty treat at McDonald's.

Love, love, love,
Leah (faculty), Stephanie (student), Emilee (student)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Day Full of Laughter and Tears

Today we ended our service at ABI and Missionaries of the Highway. This process included creating care plans, donating therapy tools and supplies, toys, and adapted equipment. Some therapists and students also followed up on home visits into the community. Here are some of our stories:

Today was our last service day at ABI. We started the day by finishing up our care plans and dividing up therapy tools and toys for the residents. We also brought a suitcase full of shoes for all of the residents and only had 3 pairs leftover. The residents were ecstatic to get new shoes. Each time they saw us they would point to their new shoes with the biggest grin on their face. The caregivers and ABI therapists received more care plans and recommendations from us to keep the residents engaged in activities throughout their days. The care plans were very detailed and included pictures with a step by step description of activities, goals, and therapy techniques in Spanish. We ended the day with a celebration with some of the residents and the staff. Two groups of residents performed a dance for us during this celebration. The therapists and students were also presented with certificates and small gifts as a gracious thank you from the ABI staff. At the closing of the ceremony, our service learning group presented ABI with donations of therapy tools, toys, and adapted equipment for the residents. Both staff and residents of ABI were overjoyed with all of our contributions from today and throughout the week. We were also greatly appreciative of the learning experience of working alongside the staff of ABI and we can't thank them enough for allowing us in their facility to contribute to the well-being of their residents. Taylor (Student)

Today was another great day at Missionaries of the Highway. We finished up with our wheelchair clinic, and we were able to provide 30 kids with therapy today with help from some of the students and practitioners who previously went to Daryl's place. We had two sessions of Sensory Integration and two sessions of Rehabilitation going on simultaneously all day. We were able to leave one very full suitcase of donated sensory and therapeutic equipment that the therapists were (amicably) fighting over. They were so appreciative of all of the equipment,wheelchairs, and walkers that we provided to them (thanks to many of you who are reading this!). One child who has Cerebral Palsy and always relied on having someone to help him walk around, received new independence today as he received a walker that was perfect for his needs. We have heard over and over this week from parents what an incredible gift that we have been able to give them. The Guatemalan therapists took many notes during the therapy sessions and were very appreciative of all of the knowledge that we were able to give them. Many of the therapists received hugs, kisses, and endless gratitude from the children, Guatemalan therapists and parents. It has been an incredible week of learning about OT, of learning about Guatemalan culture and of growing as students and practitioners. We are so grateful to the staff of Missionaries for such an incredible experience this week. Below is a picture of myself with Flor, one of the Occupational Therapist's from Missionaries of the Highway (one thing that is different about Guatemalan culture is that most people do not smile for pictures). Valerie (Practitioner)

Two groups were fortunate enough to experience home visits today. Each group had two students, a practitioner, and a translator. Having seen pictures of different types of homes in Guatemala, we realized that it does not paint the entire picture of most of the families in Guatemala. Today was an eye opening adventure that solidified the meaning of dirt poor. Arriving at the home of these families, we were extremely grateful that they allowed us to come in and spend hours working with their child. They welcomed us by sweeping their dirt floors and setting out their nicest chairs for us to sit in. A family caring for their child with disabilities may carry them for hours, sacrificing a day of work, to bring their child into therapy. We spent time repairing wheelchairs, providing suggestions to make the home more accessible, and giving examples of different therapy techniques. After each therapy session, the family was extremely grateful and offered gifts for the time we spent with them and the work we did. In each home we were surprised at how we were able to use such little resources to make such an incredible impact on the lives of these families. Aside from wheelchair repairs and therapy techniques we spent time teaching preventative skills for caregivers and family members to assure best care and over all well being for the children with disabilities and their families. The opportunity to visit individuals' homes is an incredible honor and an important part of therapy. Home visits allow for us to see what families do in their home and learn about their daily routines. Home visits provide a therapist with an entire picture of an individual and their desires for meaningful occupations. Overall, we were grateful for the opportunity to experience the cultural aspect of the family home and the integral part that the home plays in ones overall well-being. Ashley (Student)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rain, Ruins, and Reflections

Hola Familia y Amigos!

The morning started off without wifi due to the rains last night, but that did not deter us from having a wonderful day. First we drove the vans to Patzun where we visited Amigos Por Siempre: Friends Forever secondary school. The Guatemalan students were just as excited as the Xavier students. Each child escorted us in individually by the arm and showed to our seats. We were treated to presentations, skits, dances, and songs to learn about Mayan and Guatemalan culture. The students at the school are all on scholarships and were extremely proud of their work and enjoyed sharing it with the Xavier students. They gave us new knowledge and appreciation of their culture and we left sports equipment as a small token of our gratitude.

Next we visited the city of Iximche which is now Mayan Ruins. Katie and Jillian presented the history of the site and Mayan civilization as an introduction. Tour guides showed us through the plazas, temples, ball courts, palaces, and ceremonial alters of the first capitol city of Guatemala. You may recognize the Mayan ball game from the movie The Road to El Dorado.

On the way to dinner in Antigua, we stopped to haggle and purchase souvenirs in two different markets. The markets are full of beautiful textiles and handmade items of many colors. We shopped until we ran out of quetzales. We ate dinner at Epicure and enjoyed hearty and rich foods which have left us in food comas.

Buenos Noches,
<3 Amanda (Student), Jillian (Student), and Jackie (Therapist)

Second Day Reflections

Hola friends and family! Due to rain, the wifi at the hotel was down last night. Below is last night's post!

Our second day is complete! Everyone is still happy and safe, and a little tired. In general, we felt a little more comfortable starting day two, and are ready for a day of culture tomorrow.

For Daryl’s Place, we saw the same children we did yesterday. It was so nice to have the opportunity to brainstorm last night and come in with fresh ideas to maximize potential for these sweet and adorable children. We learned so much from the caregivers who have devoted their lives to loving these kids. We were also able to give them some ideas about positioning, feeding, and activities to allow them to better interact with their environment. We are fortunate that the goal of our site matches perfectly with our goal, which is to enhance the quality of life for the kids who live with Daryl and his family. One of the best moments of the day was seeing a little one who we could barely get to even look at us yesterday smile and play today. This was our last day at Daryl’s, and Lisa (our in country Xavier OT) will continue with her incredible work there. Our next service day will lead us to “MOTH” for an entirely new experience! Amber Carpenter (Practitioner)

At ABI, we continued working with the kids who became our new friends yesterday. We started utilizing activities that we brainstormed in order to increase engagement of the kids. From sensory stimulation to transferring from wheelchairs, I learned we must never give up. We followed our motto to “Always Bring It” (hopefully you get our creativity). One of my favorite moments was at the end of the day when one of our new friends, who always lights up the room, included us in her birthday celebration. She was so happy that she even stuck her face in the cake making everyone laugh. Overall, we had a very busy day and are eager to complete our care plans that we will leave behind so our work continues once we are no longer at ABI. Audrey Butler (Student)

Today was a great day for Missionaries of the Highway. We gave three kids a wheelchair that didn’t have one prior to today and we adapted three others! We also saw sixteen children between rehabilitation and sensory integration. Today was also very emotional. In the therapy room, a two year old learned to crawl and in the wheelchair room, we took a ride on an emotional roller coaster with a mom as her fourteen year old got her first wheelchair. We again learned how important family is in Guatemala and experienced life changing and tear jerking happenings. Things went much more smoothly and the group felt more satisfied in today’s events. We are looking forward to providing the therapists and families with care plans on our next visit on Thursday so they can follow through with agreed therapy suggestions. Carly Ishee (Student)

After our long day, all the students and practitioners hosted therapy students from the local college for dinner. We enjoyed making stress balls and learning different activities they could be used for. We also made a game out of recycled water bottles and two liter bottles using string to make the attached bottles travel from one end to another. We have a plethora of pictures and stories to share soon!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Off to Service We Go!

Today was our first day at our service sites. Below are some of the thoughts and happenings from our first day:

Missionaries of the Highway
We started out the day with fitting wheelchairs on top of a van that barely fit through the archway of our hotel! At Missionaries of the Highway we sent 6 children home with wheelchairs! We also had a sensory integration room as well as a rehabilitation therapy room. Throughout our stations we saw a variety of diagnoses. The therapists got to see 6 children each and work on various techniques that the care givers were inquiring about. Students got to play with children, learn more about sensory integration and rehabilitation techniques, and get their hands dirty while fixing wheelchairs. All of us learned more about Guatemalan culture. We are all exhausted but really enjoyed all the kisses blown at us and the smiles we received today! (Erin Strobl, student)

Hope for Home (Daryl’s House)
Daryl's Home ( started our day off by getting acquainted with the gorgeous home of Daryl and Wanda who are gracious enough to take children with all types of disabilities into their home. There are currently 12 children in addition to the few kids Daryl and Wanda have adopted. It's been a tough week for Daryl and his incredible family with the death of a newborn they were asked to care for and love until he passed. Daryl and his kids were clearly still shaken, though all were thankful we were there. Each child has a different diagnosis and requires much more therapy than Lisa Monterosso can accommodate in the time she is there each week. As students, we split to work 2:1 with a practitioner and learn from their vast knowledge. Many of us worked with students with cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and sensory integration. We all had the opportunity to work on feeding with different children as well as play with the kids there. As a whole, we're excited to go back tomorrow and work at Missionaries of the Highway on Thursday. While we're all physically and mentally exhausted, we're all in agreement that it's entirely worth it. (Maddy Nave, student)

Today was our first day of service at ABI (Abrigo y Bienestar Integral), a government-run institution for children and adults with profound physical and intellectual disabilities. ABI is located in Guatemala City, about an hour drive from our hotel in Antigua (two hours during rush hour!). Working in an urban setting brings various environmental challenges-high walls with barbed wire, gated security, less safe access to areas outside the institution. Our team consisted of four therapists, six Xavier OT students, and four translators. Each therapist received a caseload of 5 children to work with this week, but we are also looking at the population and environment as a whole. We immediately went to work evaluating each resident with very limited background information provided. No ages, minimal diagnoses, minimal medical histories-this work was purely observation, physical evaluations, and clinical judgement. We will be providing treatment ideas and care plans for each child over the course of the week, as well as training videos with voiceovers in Spanish (we are unsure about literacy of caregivers to use standard subtitles) in order to help the caregivers learn more about body mechanics, treatment ideas, feeding techniques, and sensory techniques. Our overall impression is hopeful and eager because ABI incorporated so many of the ideas provided last year and we have a lot of ideas for these current children as well as for the site in general. We also have an underlying sadness because this setting is not a foster home or orphanage; the residents here have mostly been institutionalized since birth and will most likely remain institutionalized for the duration of their lives. The oldest resident at ABI is 53 years old! We are humbled to see so many smiles coming from people with so little. Personally, I'm so happy to be working with my insightful and helpful OT students, Jillian and Emilee, and our amazing translator Crystal! We are so looking forward to the rest of the week! (Rakhi Srivastava, Practitioner)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

By Bus, Boat and Bed of Truck!

We started our journey bright and early at 6am this morning! We traveled the 85 kilometers to Lake Atitlan. This took about 3 hours by bus due to the mountainous terrain. Eighty-five kilometers is equivalent to roughly 50 miles; this distance is approximately the same distance between downtown Cincinnati and downtown Dayton, Ohio. Along the way, we also stopped at a breakfast buffet, where many of the students had the opportunity to make their own corn tortillas.

Once we arrived at the lake, we took a boat ride across the lake to the city of Santiago Atitlan. We learned that the exact depth of Lake Atitlan is unknown, but it is assumed to be at least 3,000 feet deep. It is also surrounded by 3 volcanoes. The views were incredible and pictures do not do it justice!!

We spent the majority of the day exploring the city via pick up trucks. We piled into beds of trucks where we then stood while our drivers zoomed through the very narrow streets of the city! We experienced more Guatemalan markets, saw the inside of a cathedral, and rode to a lookout that was approximately at 6,000ft elevation. As we were driving, the temperature dropped and it became foggy. We then realized we were driving through the clouds. Once we reached the lookout, we ate lunch in the clouds!

On the way back down to the lake, we stopped at the "Peace Park" which is a memorial for a massacre that occurred during the Guatemalan Civil War.

One final note... on the bus ride back to Antigua we raised $140 to donate to our bus driver who works with 38 different orphanages across the country. The money we raised will go towards purchasing milk for the children.

After a long day of exploring and learning, we are excited to rest up and head out to our service sites in the morning!
Darcie Haskins (student), Steffany Morse(student), and Emily Christman (practitioner)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

"Yes sir, this is my wheelchair...walker...stroller...."

All 29 students, practitioners, and faculty members have arrived safe and sound in Antigua, Guatemala!
This includes:
- 12 wheelchairs/strollers
- 11 walkers
- 37 checked bags= 1,850 lbs of donations!!!

Despite multiple questions and strange looks throughout our travel day, we took it in stride and enjoyed the special accommodations. We even had a VIP shuttle ride across the airport and some of us got to be the first passengers on the plane. This experience taught us all a lesson on the complexities associated with traveling with physical challenges. It was interesting to hear and see the discrimination towards individuals using adaptive equipment without seeing a physical disability.

Upon arrival to Guatemala City, we traveled an hour to Antigua and had a tour of the town. We had our first exposure to Guatemalan culture as we explored the market and saw Central Park. The market showed us that the occupation of shopping for Guatemalans is much more than just purchasing goods. Instead, time in the market is a community event and a time to be together. We returned to our hotel, Santa Anna, and enjoyed our first dinner together.

We are exhausted but we are looking forward to our first excursion day exploring Lake Atitlan!
Stay tuned for more exciting updates from XUOT Guatemala Team 2015! We will be sure to add pictures throughout our stay!

Sarah Dean (Student)and Katie Claar (Practitioner)