Saturday, June 3, 2017

Final Day!

Hey all, this is Alayna Ricketts, a student, and Diane Ceo-DiFrancesco, Spanish professor, checking in for the final time on the 2017 Guatemala Service Learning Trip! We had a fun-filled last day of adventures...
- We split into two groups today. One group hiked the volcano Pacaya, while the other enjoyed a shopping day in Antigua. On the volcano, there were a few falls and some difficult terrain, but we successfully completed the climb. We roasted marshmallows and explored a couple of natural caves. Also we compared lava rock from the 2010 and 2014 explosions. The weather was beautiful with no rain and a blanket of clouds that surrounded us as we sat to eat lunch. The group had the opportunity to stop at the Lava shop on the volcano! This shop sells jewelry made from lava rock that supports the communities that live along the sides on the volcano. We enjoyed the hike and its sights! The other group's day in Antigua was filled with delicious food and some sites in Antigua. Beginning the day with a breakfast at a cafe, the group had a full but relaxing day. They went to to markets, an historic convent, and a jade factory.
- We gathered together around 6 pm for a dinner at Hotel Santa Ana and a presentation on gang rehabilitation.All found the presentation eye-opening to the reality of life for some in Guatemala. We ended our final night with group reflection and celebration. Students and practitioners shared the surprises, joys, and special moments of the week. during the celebration, the group ate wonderful cake made by Lisa and listened to a rap created by the students!

As I end my second week with Xavier University Occupational Therapy students in Guatemala, I wish to express deep gratitude for the opportunity to work with these fabulous young people. They have been so curious and open to new learning, anxious to communicate in Spanish, and willing to participate in experiences outside their comfort zones. ~Diane

Hello, this is Carol, the group leader. I am grateful for the completion of another successful service learning experience in Guatemala; this, in fact, our 10th year. Our week has been full, fun, and fabulous. At each of our 3 service sites the dedication of the parents of children with disabilities has been amazing. The parents give their all to improve the lives of their children. Similarly, the love and support provided by the direct line caregivers and professionals is inspirational. The beauty of the people of Guatemala shines through in their every day and endless love they give to their children. Additionally, it has been a real honor and privilege to learn more of the Guatemalan culture and to consider issues of social justice. While in some ways unique to a specific culture or country, issues of social justice also cross cultures and countries and concern us all as we strive to make the world a better place.

Lastly, a big thanks goes to the parents of each occupational therapy student in allowing and supporting your daughter to participate in this service learning experience. Tonight, as we reflected upon the week, I was touched as several students shared that the first thing they would tell when they arrived home was to thank their parents for making this trip possible. Wow. Parents, you are raising daughters who will make great occupational therapists. To the therapists, too, we are grateful they gave up a week of their vacation time to give so freely of their  expertise and their care. Lastly, our hosts were fabulous as they assured not only our safety but connected us to our service sites and facilitated our learning. From Steve, our host, to Rolando and Lisa to all our drivers and interpreters, we extend much gratitude and appreciation.

Carol Scheerer

Friday, June 2, 2017

Final Day of Service Learning (Daryl's Group)

¡Hola! Daryl's group here (Sydney, Nikki, Morgan, Cayla, Carol, Todd, and Clare) to tell you about our adventures in Jutiapa and our eventful drive back to Antigua. Two days ago, we arrived in Jutiapa at the Centro de Esperanza, a rural special education school. In total, we saw 34 clients. The kids were cute as buttons, and we learned so much from the families as well as the the fabulous staff. Morgan, Sydney, Cayla and Nikki loved experiencing occupational therapy and physical therapy in action, and the care plans they wrote will allow the families to continue the therapy they learned with the therapists. The overall trip was anything but boring. We got to see beautiful Guatemalan views, Nikki got attacked by moths, and we saw a minor motorcycle crash on the way back. We left our mark in Jutiapa with a handprint X on the school wall. All is well, and we can't wait to hike a volcano in the morning! 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Day 4 At Our Service Learning Sites

Hello family and friends this is Lauren, Carly and Bhanu writing from our service site, Missionaries of the highway.

Today our team split up into four service areas: sensory, occupational, home visits and the classroom.  Tara and Allie worked with Stacia in sensory, Lauren and Andrea worked in occupational, Carly, Claire and Sara went on home visits, and Ann worked with Bhanu in the classroom.

In occupational Andrea and I (Lauren) worked with 9 children.  Many of the parents had concerns about attention to activities the children did not want to do, such as get dressed, eat dinner, and complete their homework.  We recommended to the parents to do first-then activities with the children to motivate the children to complete the tasks that they needed to do.  We enjoyed getting to know the children in the time we had them and we really connected with a few.  We did have a few ornery ones today who did not want anything to do with us, but that is part of the job.  I really enjoyed learning from Andrea and inserting my own ideas and receiving positive feedback.  So far, I have learned a lot from the therapists I have worked with and I am excited to learn more tomorrow.

Visiting the homes of our clients was incredibly eye-opening for the home visit crew (Carly, Claire, and Sara). Ultimately, I (Carly) was really impressed with the families' setup for their children, despite their very limited resources. Both visits involved making modifications to the children's wheelchairs, but when asked if they had any questions or concerns about activities of daily living, exercises, etc. both sets of parents responded that they felt like those activities were going well. Considering the extent of the children's needs, and the heavy lifting on their parents' part, I was really moved by both sets of parents' absolute dedication to doing the best they could by their children. The second visit was the toughest, as we were limited in the modifications we were hoping to provide to this particular client's wheelchair, but nonetheless her parents were very appreciative of our efforts, serving us lunch from their own limited stores and hugging us goodbye as we left.

Hello from Bhanu!  This whole week I have spent time with the psychologist, teacher, parents and children!  And sharing this wonderful experience with the budding OTs from Xavier.  Not much hands on treatment BUT unbelievable dialogue that has included facilitating consultation and collaboration between the team.  Every day ended with a very satisfied feeling of accomplishment that parents and teachers were facilitated to be on the same page to carryout what was best for the child.  Lots of conversation and consultation on ADLs.. my favorite topic!  Shared many tidbits from my book Self-Care with Flair! The children that I saw were adorable, so cooperative, well mannered with great fine motor skills. They definitely were an occupational therapists' dream.  Each and every  OT students that I have mentored  have been great! I wish them a glorious future. Touching lives leaves a very satisfactory feeling that they will experience in the future as OTs.  All in all it has been great experience!  

Buenos Noches!
Lauren, Bhanu, Carly

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Day 3 of Service Learning - ABI

  Buenas noches from Guatemala City!
  This is Lorrie and Erin (OT practitioners) coming to you live from ABI, a government-run residential facility located in Guatemala City, near the airport. Today was our third day of service at this site including the Annex, a day program for some of ABI's residents. We spent the majority of our day at the Annex, treating residents with a wide variety of physical and sensory needs. Some of our highlights of the day include:

  • Introducing an iPad to a resident with spastic CP, who appears to be very intelligent however lacks the physical and verbal skills to interact with his environment. This individual appeared to love the iPad, and we are very hopeful that it will help improve his ability to communicate with others and challenge his mind. We are hopeful that our recommendations for an iPad will help secure one for him in the future!
  • Engaging a child with a burned, contracted upper extremity in purposeful reaching activities with his affected arm, which he normally does not use. It was difficult to find something that motivated him, but grasping handfuls of beans seemed to do the trick!
  • Having a teenager--who has only ever used a bottle--eat flan from a spoon for the first time. This has been an undertaking a year in the making, needless to say everyone was very excited at this major development!
  • Teaching the staff at the Annex how to better utilize their sensory integration room, as well as safe feeding and positioning strategies. The staff were very receptive to our suggestions.
  • Working on Spanish letter/number discrimination, PECS, and safe swallowing strategies for some of the residents with our talented speech therapist.
After we finished our work today, we headed to our hostel, aptly named "Hostal Guatefriends". It is within walking distance of ABI; however, we still managed to get a little lost on our way here. :) We were treated to some delicious "Pollo Campero" which we all agreed were the best chicken nuggets we have had in awhile. In addition to the food, we also have the great company of two children living here with their family, who have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.  It may be a bit cramped (8 of us in 2 rooms!), but thank goodness for a nice outdoor patio! The students have been working hard on our care plans for the residents of the Annex, and we are looking forward to spending more time at ABI tomorrow. Signing off now from ABI, stay tuned for a post from Missionaries tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Day 2 of Service Learning

Good Evening family, friends, and followers alike! Writing to you today are Andrea and Clare, two occupational therapy pracitioners and XU alumni. WOW. We had an awesome day today! At Daryl's home, we divided into two groups and were able to see 10 kids throughout the day, all of whom have various needs to be addressed (and all of whom are very sweet). The caregivers at the house were present during most of the sessions and very receptive to learning new ideas and continuing to work with the kids on therapy goals. In the afternoon, we spent some time working at Daryl's second location, where four children who have special needs are currently living.  It is amazing to see the compassion of all the people involved with working at this organization.

At Missionaries of the Highway, Andrea was on the wheelchair team with Carly, Sarah, and Claire. We also could not have accomplished so much without our amazing translators who were busy translating information to and from the family, as well as jumping in to work on the wheelchairs. We saw three children and adjusted three wheelchairs, fixed one walker, and fit a 12 year-old boy with his first wheelchair ever! The new wheelchair took four hours of team work, but the final product resulted in big smiles from both the boy and his parents. For sure, the end result made all the hard work worth it!

According to our sources (aka Erin, fellow XU alum and occupational therapy practitioner), the group at ABI started with a shoe fair.  The group fit shoes to all of the residents at ABI, who were very grateful for their new zapatos (translation: shoes).  Student/pracitioner pairs then spent the rest of the morning observing group routines and assessing some of the children's individual and sensory and oral needs. In the afternoon, the group ventured over to the Annex (a day program for 17 of the children at ABI) and spent some time observing and  treating children there with sensory and oral needs.

Tomorrow, we will be at our service sites (Daryl's group will be going to a different location so stay tuned) and spending two overnights near or at those locations.  We are looking forward to having extended hours of service during these days. FYI, we will rotate bloggers at each site for the next three days. Thanks for reading, we are off to coffee happy hour (shoutout:Rolando). As always, thanks for all the support and following our trip!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Day 1 of Service Learning

Hola  amigos this is Ann and Tara. Today was our first day at our service sites. Overall I would call today a  great first day of being at our service learning sites and we are all excited to go back tomarrow.  Carol made it in today making our group finally complete. Tara wnd I were both at  missionaries of the highway today, there they have a  sensory room, a occupational therapy room, a physical  therapy room, and two special education rooms. On site there is an  orphanage, and a school that goes from Kindergarden through 12th grade. Our job was to  evaluate and modify wheelchairs to improve quality of life of both the client and their family. It was rewarding to see the  instant improvement just by modifying a wheelchair to better fit the client. When we got back from our sites we had dinner then discussed our highs and lows for the day. It was exciting to hear about everyones day and how they were all so different.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Road to Antigua

Hola todos mi amigos! Allie and Nikki coming at ya live from Guatemala! We woke up bright an early this morning to our wonderful rooster friend. We then traveled to Iximche and had the opportunity to observe three traditional Mayan dances. The first was King Iximche, then The Market, and finally Courtship. We learned about the traditional food as well as the ancient game of Pok ta Pok. We also observed weaving and pen wrapping. Walking through Iximche, we saw the ancient Mayan ruins such as temples, ball courts, and the moat. They were all unique and educational experiences that we will be able to incorporate as future culturally competent OTs.

After walking through the ruins, we traveled to Antigua with most of us asleep in the van.  On our way, we were able to drive through the city of Zaragoza, which was really interesting to see after having read about it in our Guatemalan language and culture class.  When we arrived at our hotel in Antigua, we immediately got to work unpacking and distributing all of the donations that we were able to bring with us (thanks again for all the donations)!  We then got the opportunity to walk around and explore the beautiful Hotel Santa Ana before a nice dinner.  Now we are all excited and preparing for a full and fun day of service at our sites tomorrow! Good night everyone! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Last Day in Xela

        Sadly, today we had our last day in Xela with our host families. In the morning the group went to a cooperative called "Trama". This cooperative allows indigenous women in Guatemala to sell their traditional woven products. However, unlike the street vendors these women are given a fair price for their work. The cooperative aims to eliminate the middleman that usually receives most of the profit. Therefore, the women directly make money from the products they make in order to support their families. During our time at the cooperative we watched an informational video about the organization and each of us had the opportunity to learn to weave on our own. At first it was difficult to master the technique, but the women teaching us were very patient, and we were eventually able to work on our own! We were so comfortable talking to the women that we found ourselves joking with one another. It was an amazing experience. We also had the opportunity to buy beautiful hand-woven products from their store!
       When we came back from the weaving cooperative we had to say our final goodbyes to our host families. It was an emotional morning, and each of us will not forget the memories we made with our families. We continue to be in awe of the openness and hospitality of our families to let us into their homes as strangers and treat us like their own. MaryLauren and I shared a special moment with our host family moments before we left. We tried on the traditional dress and took pictures with our host family. It was very difficult to say goodbye to these families who were so loving. Although we had only known them for a few days, we felt so welcome in their home and we will truly miss them. After leaving Xela we then traveled to Panajachel. Although we haven't been here long, we are already in love. Panajachel has a beautiful view of Lake Atitlan and is bustling with street vendors. We even had a chance to bargain and roam the markets on our own! We ended the day with a delicious dinner and final reflections on all we have learned during our cultural immersion week. Our first week in Guatemala has truly been an experience we will never forget. We not only learned about the culture through our home stays and various tours, but we also became closer to one another. We can't wait to see what the second half of our trip holds for us!

MaryLauren and Libby

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kids and Coffee

Hola!  Day 6 here in Guatemala has been exciting for all of us. We were lucky enough to sleep in a tad since we had a slightly later start today! We gathered at our school (Casa Xelaju) before heading off to our first site of the day. We went to Escuela Oficial Urbana Mixta de Educacion Especial Xelaju, a elementary school for kids with disabilities in Quetzaltenango. The teachers brought the kids out to the center courtyard where we circled up and intermixed with the kids. We used this time to sing the songs that we learned in Spanish class last week! The kids were so excited to be singing the songs with us, and some of them really got into it and were dancing along as well. They even shared a new song that they knew with us! The joy that these kids had made everyone in our group so happy, and the experience brightened everyone's day.  After singing, we were given a tour of the school. It was a pretty small school with few resources, so it really hit us hard. We all could see that the lack of funding was apparent, so it was difficult to see the conditions of the school. However, we were all happy to hear that the school has really helped these kids to progress in their skills and has some amazing teachers who are really dedicated to their work.

After our tour, we loaded up in the vans to start our drive to Santa Anita. It was about an hour and a half away on windy roads through the mountains. There were lots of beautiful views of the country and little towns that we passed through. Lunch was made for us by community members from Santa Anita, and it was quite delicious! After lunch, we listened to a testimony from Marconi. He explained the history of Santa Anita's formation due to the events in the civil war. Guerilla fighters gathered into a community there and all forty-two families now work on the coffee farm. We received an explanation of how coffee is harvested, dried, ground, and roasted. We had the opportunity to view a museum that contained pictures and clothing of guerrilla soldiers. Sadly, we were unable to take a hike around the coffee farm due to some heavy rain that conveniently started once we showed up. However, we still enjoyed our time and some of us were able to purchase some coffee from Café Santa Anita!

Lastly, we headed back through the mountains to the school for a short reflection. We went home for our final dinner with our host families as tomorrow afternoon we will be departing Quetzaltenango (Xela) for Panajachel.

Alayna y Sara

Wednesday May 24, 2017

We had another day packed with activities. Today, we continued to further explore Guatemalan culture and the overall atmosphere of the country. Our day began with a visit to FUNDABIEN, an organization that provides services to adults and children in the community that live with developmental disabilities. We got to see the facility as well as the departments of speech pathology, special education, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Everyone as FUNDABIEN was welcoming and enjoyed sharing their organization with us. We found the experience quite incredible because we were able to compare and contrast this facility with similar places in the United States. The organization has multiple locations across the country, and they are mainly funded by telethons and various local fundraisers. FUNDABIEN is also labeled as a public organization; however, the federal government has not provided any funding for many years. We were frustrated with this because with federal funding, this organization could provide more services to serve their clients. With more funds they could provide psychological services, repair necessary therapeutic tools, and acquire much needed technological advancements. 

Another highlight of our day was hearing Joel tell his story of an accident that led to both arms requiring a transradial amputation. He was such an uplifting and optimistic person, and we were amazed that he was able to see the positives when there was so much negativity. He faces discrimination in everyday life but approaches each day with strength and grace. I'm glad we experienced his positive attitude before we toured La Democracia Private Hospital. The hospital was interesting compared to a public hospital within the same town or even a private hospital in the United States. There were very few people able to afford the private care, and the facility, while considered complete, lacked much of the technology and equipment we would consider a necessary part of medical care.

We spent the last part of our day at a women's rights organization in Xela named AMUTED. They have multiple small groups that advocate for all women's rights in Guatemala especially the rights of indigenous women and those who have experienced domestic violence. Another aspect AMUTED focuses on is the preservation of the language, clothing, and spirituality of the indigenous Mayan culture. The women are able to participate in activities such as cooking, baking, sewing, and weaving. They use these activities as occupational therapy because it allows the women to process the traumas they have experienced through the means of engaging skills and means to create their own income. AMUTED and similar programs allow women the opportunity to feel safe, independent, and empowered. All of our experiences from today will help us continue to grow as future occupational therapist and call us to be more attune to the cultural differences and injustices in our world.

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