Dr. Robyn Otty kindly put together this slide show of the Class of 2012′s journey with our OT program. Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to show it at our hooding cermony, but now have it available for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Monthly Archive for May, 2012
Each year, Dr. Becky von der Heyde takes two students with her to Guatemala as their Level 1C fieldwork experience. Students are asked to anonymously submit answers to a series of questions and two students are chosen to accompany her to Guatemala. A great deal of fundraising is planned and executed to help offset the costs. Our faculty and students arrive in Guatemala with a group of medical personnel from all over the United States. This is all part of an effort orchestrated by the Guatemala Healing Hands foundation (www.guatemalahands.org). The Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality and availability of health care in Guatemala through education, surgery and therapy. Specializing in the treatment of congenital and hand injuries, their aim is to reach Guatemalan children and adults through medical missions led by a team of specialized and skilled surgeons, therapists and volunteers.
This year, two of our fourth year students, Amber White and Megan Sparks traveled to Guatemala with Dr. von der Heyde. Below are their reflections and some photos of their experiences.
Describe your most meaningful experience during the 2012 Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation Medical Mission: The most meaninful experience during the trip was the time we spent in Chichoy Alto on March 11th. Chichoy Alto is a village that the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation helps support; they provide financial assistance to the children to help them go to school past the 6th grade and they fund latrine and stone building projects. During the week of the medical mission, family members of the medical team go help build the latrines and stoves, and we all were able to help with this during the afternoon of the 11th.
I had no idea what to expect when we went to the village. When we arrived, I was overwhelmed with emotions. All of the people of the village were there to welcome us. As we walked down the hill, the boys were lined on one side and the girls on the other. They clapped for joy and I personally shook hands with most of them. They were so excited to see us. The Foundation provided the money for them to host a meal for the entire village while we were there. The ladies spent several days preparing for the meal, and it was so awesome to see the village working together to put together a “wedding feast” for us; weddings are the only times they would have a celebration so large. They also had a presentation that was put on by various village leaders and school children as a thank you and welcome for us. I really felt the impact that the Foundation makes on the village while I was there, and I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of that.
While we were in the village, we gave each of the children a small toy and a piece of candy. After we handed out toys, we had the chance to interact with the people in the village and play with the children. I had so much fun just playing catch with a small plastic ball with a group of boys. I think we probably played for 30 minutes. Something we think is so small was so meaningful to them. I loved watching them interact with each other and me. They were so happy. This opportunity truly made me realize how much I have, and how much I should be grateful for.
Compare and contrast the culture of Guatemala to your own: While I was in Guatemala I realized how much I truly have and how much many of them didn’t have. During one point of the trip I looked down and realized there was a small tear beginning on my shoe and questioned myself as to why that was such a bad thing – especially because a lot of the children I saw had shoes that could barely stay on their feet they were torn so bad. You become very grateful when you’re in that culture. It was very humbling to see that the people still appeared relatively happy all the time. With so little, they were happy. I really thought about how greedy we can get in America over things we don’t even need. The people of Guatemala aren’t greedy – they just want to make enough to survive. They want to feed their family, have shelter, and meet their basic needs.
The people of Guatemala also seem to take their time more than we do in America. Sometimes we would be at dinner for almost three hours in the evening. In America, we do a lot of rushing. You want fast service, you want to be on time, and your schedule dictates much of what you’re doing constantly. Guatemala’s different – we try to infuse our culture into theirs, and it didn’t work. We ended up with a lot of “hurry up and wait.” When I got back to the US, I wanted that lifestyle to continue, and so I’ve actually tried to incorporate it some into my life. Instead of always being on the go, I’m trying to take some time to slow down and focus on relationships with people and taking care of myself. Some days it works, others it doesn’t, but I’ve definitely noticed a difference.
What impact did this trip have on you personally? Guatemala was humbling for me. When you’re there, you realize quickly how much we have as Americans. You realize how distracting the material world can be, and you start to see God a little more in things that were easy to overlook before. At the end of the day, if I impacted nobody (which I know was not the case) during my time in Guatemala, I felt Christ’s fire burning inside of me and reconnecting me with the passion to always have a servant heart and help others. I helped some people in big ways (therapeutic treatment) and other people in small ways (sometimes just a smile counts), and I felt blessed. I felt blessed to be a part of their life, the opportunity, and the impact I was making. Even now that I’m back, I look around and see how blessed I am. I am more than willing to help someone in need. And daily, I see God’s grace, mercy, and love shining in everything.
What impact will this trip have on your career as an occupational therapist? This trip taught me to think outside of the box and be creative with my resources. Even though the Foundation brought a ton of therapy supplies on the trip, we were often challenged to adapt the materials that we had in order to make something therapeutic. In the future, I may be working in a clinic and need something we may not have. I will need to challenge myself to make use of what we have in order to help the client, and this trip helped teach me how to reason and do that.
This trip also increased my confidence level. As a student, it’s easy to seek mentors for answers instead of really challenging what we know and looking through resources. I made a resting hand splint for the first patient I was working with in Guatemala. I’ve only made one resting hand splint before, and it was the first splint I had ever made. When I went to make the pattern on the patient, I was expecting direct supervision. Instead, the therapists were close by for if I had questions during the pattern making and the splint making process. I knew at that moment that I needed to challenge myself to reason through the problem before quickly seeking help. (I did a pretty good job making the splint too – and with little help!) This is going to be so important as a therapist because we’re going to have to think on our own and on the spot daily. I’ll have the knowledge base once I graduate, and I’ll need to use that knowledge to clinically reason. I won’t be able to run and ask for help for every little thing.
I have wanted to go on the trip to Guatemala with the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation since I first heard about it in 2008 as a freshman at Maryville. Four years later, after returning from the two-week trip, it was everything I could have hoped it would be and so much more. Going on this trip was so much more than just a fieldwork experience; it has made me grow in some surprising ways and has taught me so much, about myself, about Guatemala, and about what it truly means to be an occupational therapist.
Trying to sum up my experience with the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation in a few paragraphs would be impossible, so rather I will try to describe one event that had a great impact on me. On Saturday, March 10, 2012, before the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation team started the medical mission aspect of the trip, we were able to travel to a rural village in Guatemala called Chichoy Alto. The Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation has somewhat adopted Chichoy Alto in that they sponsor the children so that they can stay in school longer and they are working to provide each family with a latrine (outdoor toilet) and a smokeless oven in order to improve health for the village. While I was told all of these things before we went to Chichoy Alto, I was still completely blown away by the experience I had while I was there.
When we first arrived in Chichoy, we were very warmly welcomed. People were waiting for us as we drove in and they lined the streets to welcome us. We were then led to the school yard where there was a welcoming ceremony and each grade put an a skit and several sppeches were made (in Spanish). We then got to play with the kids from Chichoy and I quickly learned that a smile, in any language, goes a long way. We also were able to give each child a small toy and piece of candy. They were all so excited to receive a small toy that as a child I would have discarded without a second thought. It made me realize how blessed I am to have all of the things that I do, but I also noticed that while these kids didn’t have much, they were so happy. They got so much joy out of a sticker or bubbles or playing catch will a small plastic ball that it made me wonder if all of my “stuff” actually makes me happy. While this isn’t a post about materilism, going to Chichoy Alto did make me think about what truly is important in my life.
While there we were also able to share a meal with the 750 people from Chichoy with food that the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation provided to the village. We had soup and tamales which the women in the village had worked days to prepare for us. We were told that the meal and celebration that we were experiencing was the equivilent to a wedding feast in Chichoy and I was honored to be able to expereince that.
After lunch was cleaned up our team split into small groups to work on building the latrines and ovens for various families. The group I was in went to work on an oven for a family who all lived in a one room house and had one bed to share. As we were heading down to the family’s home I remember thinking that I do not have the first clue as to how you build a smokeless oven, but soon found out that some of the people from Chichoy knew all there was to know about building ovens and showed us how to start building one. We worked on the oven for a few hours, mixing concrete, putting the bricks in place, and taking measurements, and were also able to play with the kids from the nearby houses. By the time we had finished about half of the oven, we had to head back into Guatemala City. Upon leaving Chichoy Alto, I felt truly blessed, not only for the things that I have, but also for the AMAZING opportunities I have been given. Opportunities that can take me to a place like Chichoy Alto where I learned so much about the Guatemalan culture while also realizing how much of my own culture I take for granted daily.
Outside of the trip to Chichoy Alto, I continued to learn and grow. While in Guatemala, I was able to experience things I never have had the opportunity to do in the States such as observing several surgeries, going to an inpatient burn unit where I was pleasantly surprised by how occupationally focused the treatment was, and being part of a team devoted to educating Guatemalan therapists how to better treat the patients they see. Additionally, I did not expect to get to know the other people on the trip so well and I learned so much from not only the other occupational therapists (who were amazing), but also the doctors, nurses, and other people on the trip. This trip was a great opportunity to meet some incredible people, and I hope to someday call these wonderful people my colleagues as I aspire to be a hand therapist myself one day. Whether or not I do end up being a hand therapist, I will be a better occupational therapist because I was able to go on this trip. I was able to see and experience things I probably would not have been able to otherwise and I was able to learn from remarkable therapists, American, Canadian, and Guatemalan alike.
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