Mission to Guatemala
from Lisa Haack
A team of students, faculty and partners from Belmont University's School of Occupational Therapy and School of Physical Therapy are ministering in Guatemala during Belmont's spring break, the seventh year a team has traveled there.
All three flights came into Guatemala without problems Saturday. Much to our surprise everyone “passed” immigration and no pat-downs were required. Guatemala welcomed us with weather that reminded us of home…45 degrees and windy! Burr!!! In contrast, the reception was warm and we all settled into our rooms. We were grateful for the amenities including flushable toilets and a warm shower. It was a restful sleep with an occasional celebratory fireworks launched from near-by.
New Mobility magazine, a national publication that encourages the integration of active-lifestyle wheelchair users into mainstream society, has named newly-elected Tennessee State Representative Darren Jernigan as its Person of the Year. Jernigan serves on the Advisory Board for the Belmont University School of Occupational Therapy.
In November, Jernigan defeated incumbent state representative Jim Gotto for a seat in the Tennessee state legislature. Since 2007 he has been a Nashville city councilman, winning re-election in 2011 with 77 percent of the vote. Jernigan is employed as director of government affairs at Permobil, Inc., an international company with its USA Corporate Offices in Lebanon, Tennessee. Permobil develops and manufactures powered wheelchairs and transport and communication systems for people with functional disabilities.
Dr. Teresa Plummer, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, traveled recently to Singapore where she was one of eleven presenters at the inaugural Abilities Expo in that country. The event attracted nearly 1500 people including those with disabilities, their families and caregivers from countries throughout the Far East. The three-day event featured workshops, a sports carnival, and exhibits dedicated to providing solutions to enhance quality of life for the disabled.
Dr. Plummer presented three scheduled workshops during the Expo, including a session on aging, another on the U.S. model of occupational therapy, and a third on wheelchair seating assessment and prescription that was presented in collaboration with Singapore Association of Occupational Therapists. Dr. Plummer was also asked to conduct a workshop for OT professionals in attendance.
Faculty and students from the Belmont University School of Occupational Therapy recently presented a workshop for community volunteers on providing safe transportation and door-through-door support to elder citizens. Working in collaboration with the Greater Nashville Council on Aging, Dr. Debra Gibbs, Dr. Teresa Plummer and six second-year students in the Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program conducted the workshop at the North Nashville Police Precinct. About 25 local volunteers attended. Student presenters included Brittni Thompson, Carrie Beth Henson, LaRae Murray, Danielle Paulsen, Rebecca Lynn and Kelly Dennison.
Mission to Guatemala 2012
by Allison Toole
Today we woke up in beautiful Antigua! Its safe to say we all got an amazing night of sleep after a hard day of work yesterday in Tecpan! I was part of the team that spent the day at the JT Children’s Foundation and it was such a rewarding experience! We saw 5 patients in the morning and 4 patients in the afternoon. It was amazing to see the teamwork between us and the clinicians there in Tecpan. The parents of the patients we saw were so open and wanting to understand how they could help their children out even more at home. We started out by assessing their children and ended each session with educating the parents on exercises and strengthening techniques they needed to do at home. We stressed to the parents that most of their children will not get better unless they continue doing their exercises at home. Overall, the teams had a very rewarding experience at the JT Foundation and felt very blessed for the opportunity to work with such beautiful children.
After our team finished at the JT Foundation, we got on the bus and headed over to the where the other team had spent the day building steps and installing a rope. I was completely in awe when we pulled up and saw the numerous amounts of kids that lived in this part of the village! They were SO loving and immediately hugged and greeted us as we got out of the van. After talking with the other team for a while, I was told that the kids were very eager to help out with their project and were an integral part in helping build the steps. It warmed my heart to know and see how hardworking these children are… that isn’t something I am used to seeing every day. It was a very humbling experience to see how grateful these children were for all the work we did.
I can’t believe how fast this week has gone by! I feel like I have learned and grown so much in such a short amount of time. My heart is completely on fire for this beautiful country and I cannot wait for future opportunities to come back and hopefully continue these projects we have started here this past week. Today is zip lining and shopping in the market and we are all very excited to explore the market and get some good shopping in (including the delicious coffee!!)
Mission to Guatemala 2012
Feliz Dia de Madre! Today is Mother’s Day in Guatemala. We all got this message at 4 am with a 5 minute blast of fire crackers in the courtyard!
The team headed to Tecpan – a rural farming village about 2 hours west of the city. We teamed up with JT Childrens Foundation – an organization that provided physical and occupational therapy for kids. 1/2 of the team stayed at the foundation assisting with therapy and the nurses gave CPR training.
The other half went out into a community in the mountains. We were at Melvin’s home. Melvin is a 14 yr old kid with CP. His home is on top of a steep incline – maybe 200 meters from the main road. Melvin walks down the stairs to the main road to get to therapy. The stairs have been washed smooth over time. His handrail….barb wire! Yikes.
We spent the day cutting out new stairs and installed a rope for a hand rail. Pretty good day of manual labor. We did of course find time to play with all the kids. Spanish is the 2nd language in this area. the main language is a Mayan dialect of Q’eqchi. Super nice folks.
After work we headed into Antigua were we will be for the next 2 nights. Friday is our day off – zip lining and shopping.
Mission to Guatemala 2012
by Rachel Haddock
Today was as busy and fun filled as the previous few days. I was a part of a team who spend the majority of the day at the school meeting classrooms full of children ages kindergarten through the 6th grade. With entry into each classroom we were greeted with songs. We watched as they made gifts for their mothers and had time to play as well. We spent the rest of our time painting a classroom that was built a few years ago and really needed a fresh coat of paint.
The highlight of the day, for me was when we went into the village where we got to see how great the poverty is and what seemed to me was the 'real Guatemala' and what daily life is like for people here. We met a wonderful family whose daughter is suffering from chronic renal failure. She was hooked up to a make-shift dialysis device and we heard from her mother that the young girl wanted most was to ride a bike again before she died. This statement was not only incredibly touching and heartbreaking but motivating for our team. As we left them, we made the decision to buy her a bicycle before we left. In the middle of dinner she and her mother and father came to the Nazarene Center to get her gift. We were all overwhelmed by her father's gratitude and her mother's tears. The little girl was so excited and was able to practice immediately, her joy was undeniable. It was so humbling and rewarding to know that we made a difference in her life and hopefully made her time before and after surgery a time she can enjoy and have fun like other kids.
I am looking forward to the adventures and challenges that we face tomorrow but I am so encouraged after tonight, seeing the impact we made simply by giving a little girl a bike- something we take for granted everyday back home.