Friday, April 13, 2018

¡Vamos a Guatemala!

The thought of an opportunity to increase cultural awareness, provide donations to a community, and to work side by side with clinicians in another country are some of the driving factors for the UNC DPT Class of 2018 and supporting faculty/clinicians on our journey to Antigua, Guatemala. This trip has been a part of the DPT curriculum as an elective course offered in the third year for about 8 years with varying numbers of participants. This year, 14 third-year students and 8 leaders will be spending 8 days in Antigua and surrounding areas volunteering, learning, and enjoying the beautiful country and culture of Guatemala.

Antigua, Guatemala
With this being said, thank you for checking out our blog! We will be posting updates and photos each day of our trip. We hope to allow you an intimate glimpse of our work (and play!) and to educate you on some of the current happenings or needs in Guatemala.

In preparation for the trip, we have collected donations of various items for distribution at Las Obras and health fairs we will be participating in. We have completed learning modules on traveling to another country and the precautions that should be taken to decrease the risk of illness or other negative events. Most of us have had to receive extra immunizations for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and flu shots, as well as preemptive antibiotics for the dreaded traveler's diarrhea! 
DPT '18 First Group Picture

A quote from third-year, Jessica Anderson on preparing for the trip: “It’s difficult to prepare for an experience you know is going to be a complete divergence from everything you know and take for granted in the states. Talking about the need and poverty in which the Guatemalans we will be serving live in is one thing, but experiencing it will be completely different. Am I physically prepared? Yes, I know what I’m packing, I’ve gotten my vaccines, and I’m brushing up on my Spanish. Am I mentally prepared? We’ll see. I’m trying to keep an open mind and go into this experience knowing that this trip is not only about making a positive impact in Antigua, but also about gaining collaboration and cultural sensitivity skills that will help us become better clinicians.”
Jess Anderson, DPT '18

Ned Bixby shares his current state of emotions: "How is preparing for Guatemala? It's hectic. Being in the final weeks of class in our final year of PT school, we are juggling assignments, papers, capstone projects and presentations, and studying for the Board exam. For those of us that are going to Guatemala, we are losing a week to complete everything, and let me tell you... a week is a lot of time, which has therefore made preparing for Guatemala a little... hectic. But, it's an exciting kind of hectic! This trip is going to be an eye-opening and a potentially life-changing experience for us. To be able to teach and learn from other people in another country is not something that can be done in a classroom; we need to be immersed and surrounded by the people and the culture. I cannot wait to meet and talk with the locals and to see what Guatemala as a country has to offer because whatever it is, it is going to be so much different than life here in Chapel Hill, and that's why my hectic life right now is so exciting!"
Ned Bixby, DPT '18

A glimpse of what is on the docket includes:
Tuesday: Arrival! Walking tour of Antigua. Grocery store for supplies.
Wednesday: Spanish lesson. TBD activity in the afternoon
Thursday: Las Obras in the morning. Clinic in Pastores in the afternoon
Friday: Las Obras in the morning. Clinic in Pastores in the afternoon. Health Fair!
Saturday: Hike Pacaya! (Active Volcano).
Sunday: Mayan ruins! Ziplining!
Monday: Las Obras in the morning. School visit in the afternoon.
Tuesday: Guatemala's Labor Day. Hike to coffee farm.
Wednesday: Head back to North Carolina tired, enriched, and full of stories.

DPT '18 Last Day in L100
Thanks again for following us. We are excited to share such an experience with you!
Ali Serrani, DPT '18

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Day 9 - May 4, 2016

Today was our last day in the lovely country of Guatemala and a full day of travel back to the states.  This morning we packed up our belongings in Antigua and enjoyed a scenic AC'd bus ride to catch our flights out of Guatemala City.

Though we only spent nine days in this beauty, the relationships we developed and the unique opportunities we experienced has made our time here invaluable.  We walk away from this service-learning trip with new friendships, perspectives and professional skills.

Our final hooray at Las Obras!

We appreciate the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's DPT Outreach Program and volunteers for providing us with this incredible learning experience and service opportunity.  Many thanks to the residents and staff of Las Obras as well as the local community for welcoming us and introducing us to the Guatemalan culture.

                                                   Hasta la próxima!


Day 8 - May 3, 2016

-brought to you by Genevieve and Rob

Wow! I can’t believe that our time in Antigua has come to an end! Today was our last full day in Guatemala and we made the most of it with the therapy staff and residents. Therapy, lunch, y una fiesta de helado (ice cream party)!!!

            This morning began early with a small group of students arriving at Las Obras early to feed the residents and transfer them to their wheelchairs. A little after 8 a.m., most of the group arrived and proceeded to their respected areas. Students were in the pediatric gym, in the pool with pediatric residents, in the young adult area, and in the older adult area. This was our last chance to provide therapy for the residents, and everyone worked hard to provide them with the best care. I know that the pool was filled with smiles, laughter, and hard work as almost 10 residents were in the pool and accompanied by a therapist at one time!

            Lunch was a treat today! At noon, all the therapy staff and UNC DPT students/faculty/residents gathered in the pediatric gym for a wonderful meal! Lunch included delicious chicken, roasted potatoes, guacamole, corn tortillas, and juice. At this time, we were able to thank the therapy staff for welcoming us into Las Obras and for providing a wonderful learning opportunity for all of those that traveled here to Antigua Guatemala. We also were able to ask everyone for feedback regarding the presentations this year and asked for presentation ideas for future trips. The Las Obras Staff and all those from UNC enjoyed this last time together before our departure.

            When lunch was over, we all had about an hour and a half to finish up some shopping or go back to our casa’s for a bit. At precisely 2 p.m., we all gathered together at Las Obras and were privileged to take residents on a little trip to Parque Central for an ice cream party. Each of the students had their own resident to maneuver over the cobblestone to the park. It was quite a feat for a few of the wheelchairs. Once at the park, the residents had the choice of either chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Most of the resident’s chose chocolate and loved it! Once the ice cream was finished, we played around the fountains in the park. While we were there, a small church group was playing music and singing; at one point, they offered a prayer for all of the residents and the students assisting. The ice cream party ended with trekking back to Las Obras over the cobblestones, taking a quick jaunt inside the church, and then retuning the residents to their rooms.


            It is hard to believe that our time at Las Obras has ended. The respect that we have for all those working at Las Obras is enormous. The resident’s are showered in love daily which was amazing to experience. I know that we have learned so much from this opportunity and that our lives have all been impacted.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Day 7 -- May 2, 2016

This blog post is brought to you by Emily Paul and Korre Scott

After a busy and enjoyable weekend, we were all very tired as we started our Monday morning.  Some people started their day early to help feed patients at Las Obras or to see patients in orthopedics. The rest of us joined the others at Las Obras around 8:15 and many of us went to new areas of the hospital. Mid-morning, we and other volunteers gathered with about 30 patients for a dance class led by a local instructor. There were two dance classes, one with pediatric residents and one with adult residents. The instructor was energetic and played upbeat songs an instructed on how to dance with the residents. We all had a great time and especially enjoyed seeing the many smiles on the resident's faces.  As an added bonus, we all got quite a workout. 
Kelly dancing with two residents during the pediatric dance class. 
More residents and volunteers dancing during the adult class. 

At lunchtime, Nicole gave an excellent presentation to our class and the therapy staff about patient education for those with low back pain. Her presentation fostered good communication and exchange of ideas between our students and the staff therapists. 
Nicole presenting to the therapy staff and UNC students.

After her presentation, we went back to our hotel to gather the supplies for our second health fair at a school in Santa Maria de Jesus. There was a great turn out for the health fair, probably about 150 people. People were greatly appreciative of all of our donations and thankful for the information provided at the health fair. Generally, people were very interested in the nutrition, back health, and feminine hygiene stations and the kids were very excited about toys. We also had the chance to hear some Mayan dialect in addition to Spanish. 
Ellese and Genevieve talking to a local woman about nutrition.
Rob educating some children about blood pressure.

Upon returning to Antigua, many people went to dinner and to the markets to pick up some souvenirs and gifts. We are looking forward to continuing to make a difference during our last full day in Guatemala!

Day 5 and 6 - April 30 and May 1, 2016

This weekend’s post is brought to you by: Andrew Kohler, Andrew Foster, and Mary Rutz.

Volcan Pacaya: We rose early Saturday Morning to hike Volcan Pacaya. When we reached the volcano we got a special of-course tour trekking over lava rocks to explore a cave. When we broke for lunch we roasted marshmallows and toasted sandwiches over hot lava. ¡Que rico! After lunch, we explored further to a hidden path to ski down the side of the volcano! 

Panoramic of Volcan Pacaya and the secret cave.

Foster "skiing" down the volcano side
Hiking across lava rocks to the cave.

 Coffee Tour: In the early afternoon on Saturday we had the opportunity to ride in what is referred to as a “chicken bus” with our tour guide (Hugo) and a few members of his staff to a local coffee farm located near Antigua. We were told by Hugo that an individual named Franklin Voorhes helped start direct coffee trade for local Guatemalan coffee farmers. He initially lent a small quantity of local coffee farmers a loan estimated to be about $10,000 each. The farmers in turn were able to later repay the loan with supplemental coffee grounds as interest to Franklin. The local family who owned the coffee crops we saw enjoyed telling us about coffee production. The family went through a quick overview of coffee production stages from picking, washing, fermentation, husking, drying, bean selection, grinding, and ultimately the end product (getting a cup of coffee). It’s very important to select the appropriate color coffee beans, beans which are not red or yellow (green) can ruin the taste of the coffee when roasted thus ruining the entire batch. Coffee beans that are roasted “dark” contain less caffeine compared to lighter coffee shades. The coffee family who lead our tour borrowed some coffee equipment from other direct coffee trade Guatemalan members. One piece of equipment that’s borrowed is a bike with a cement wheel. The seated bike contraption separates the coffee bean from its outer layer or husk. In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say the small black cup of coffee we got to try was nothing short of amazing at the end of the coffee tour. 

Tour of a local coffee farm in Antigua

Jennifer Cooke grinding coffee beans on a bike

Mayan Ruins: Sunday morning we travelled to explore the Mayan ruins of Iximche (“corn tree”). Our good friend Hugo Suarez from Expeditions Guatemala gave us a complete tour and history of the ruins. We saw old temples, plazas, sporting fields and even got to witness an ancient ceremony performed by a local shaman. 

Partially buried temple in the Mayan Ruins
Zip lining: In the afternoon, several DPT students traveled to one of the great wonders of the world: Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, to partake in the extreme adventure of zip lining. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by three volcanoes, making for beautiful views. After a brief overlook from the mountainside of Panajachel, tranquilized by its beauty we raced to the bottom to be fitted with our gear. Once locked and loaded we began ascending the mountain on foot, through the jungliest nature that calls Panajachel home. Spider monkeys and butterflies orchestrated our trail across the swinging bridges and past waterfalls until we reached the captivating opening of a life changing experience. We zipped, raced, laughed, and screamed; waterfalls on one side and the wondrous lake on the other. There were 8 runs in this zip line course, with the longest one averaging around 45 seconds. Once we reached the bottom we crossed a ropes course of swinging steps to finish the adventure completely. There was some time to spare so we walked one of the main streets in Panajachel looking at the markets and eating dinner at a local's favorite spot.

Zip ling crew "locked and loaded"

Friday, April 29, 2016

Day 4 - April 29, 2016

This blog post is brought to you by: Kelly Walsh and Lexie Williams

We had another full day of fun, service, and learning! This morning, we had the opportunity to take 37 residents of Las Obras on an outing to celebrate the April and May birthdays. The location of the party was a local ruins site about four blocks from the hospital. It was a beautiful location with wild flowers growing and a large open area shaded by the ruins. Let’s just say it’s not easy to roll wheelchairs across cobblestone. Fortunately there were volunteers from other organizations and schools that came to help and we were able to stop traffic, lift the wheelchairs and hurry across the streets. Once there, the residents smashed a piñata, ate donuts, yogurt and candy, drank juice and did a lot of singing and dancing! Everyone had such a great time celebrating the resident’s birthdays. It was an amazing experience to see the joy that such a simple celebration can bring to so many people, including us PT students.

The birthday group after our party! 

At lunch, Genevieve presented her capstone presentation in la piscina (aka “the pool”) and did a fantastic job teaching about effective interventions for aquatic therapy to the staff at Las Obras and our class.

Genevieve during her presentation.

In the afternoon, we traveled back to Fundacion Ensename A Pescar to host our first health fair. We had six stations including blood pressure reading, low back care, nutrition, hand washing, feminine hygiene, and pregnancy and infant care.  Attendees were as young as 4 months old up to abuelos y abuelas (aka “grandpas and grandmas”)! We were able to provide resources for preventative care and to promote healthier lifestyles. Everyone was so appreciative and it was great to practice our spanglish (see above).

Kelly and Lindsey at the pregnancy and infant care station.

Lexie and Liz at the hand washing station.

Tomorrow begins our day of adventures including hiking the volcano and visiting a coffee farm! Hasta luego!

Day 3 April 28, 2016

Day 3 – April 28, 2016
Guatemala 2016: Day 3

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Lindsey.

Genevieve and Emily working in pediatrics

It was an early morning for many in our group as they rushed off to Las Obras to assist with feeding kids, orthopedics, and the NICU. The rest of the crew joined later as we dispersed to work a full morning with young children, young adults, and adults. Three other UNC students and myself worked with two lovely Guatemalan physical therapists in the young adult boys zone that mostly had varying severity levels of Cerebral Palsy. We did a lot of stretching out spastic lower extremities, trunk control, and arm strength. The Guatemalan physical therapists have wonderful relationships with the boys and we learned that they treat each one of the 32 boys three times a week!

Kohler presenting

Andrew Kohler gave an excellent presentation on Assessment and Return to Work after Lower Extremity Surgery/ Injury in Spanish to the Guatemalan physical therapists and physical therapy students that helped bridge the communication barrier gap with us through hands-on learning.

Foster, Sarah, and Lindsey speaking with a patient

After departing Las Obras we headed to Enseñame a Pescar, a school for children with disabilities. There we met with locals from the community for consultative services. There were a variety of diagnoses - down syndrome, spinal cord injury, developmental delay, and amputation to name a few. Everyone worked at providing education, exercises, or referral services to the families. 

After a long day

It was an eye opening experience for all of us that are first timers down here and many first time experiences while as we practiced physical therapy and our Spanish. We are looking forward to another great day in Guatemala tomorrow!