Every spring break, united with local Guatemalan health organizations Hearts In Motion (HIM) and the Range of Motion Project (ROMP), we provide our time and skills for one week guided by a group of fantastic clinicians in Zacapa, Guatemala. More than 40% of Guatemala’s population does not have access to healthcare services, and there are an estimated 0.9 physicians and 1 hospital bed per 1,000 people. As students we are supervised by licensed PT, OT, and P&O clinicians who have volunteered their time to help provide services to those who do not have adequate access to rehabilitation specialists. During each trip, students travel to different clinical sites and treat patients not only across the lifespan but across a wide range of diagnoses as well. We promote sustainable rehabilitation practice by teaching in-service classes and sharing our knowledge with our Guatemalan partners as well as bringing down much needed resources such as wheelchairs, walkers, AFOs, splints, and components.
For two weeks in September, we travel to Cusco, Peru to volunteer with Manos Unidas, a wonderful organization and the only private/non-profit organization in Cusco specializing in serving children and young adults with disabilities. We spend our time volunteering at a school for children with special needs, in a young adults program, and doing home visits in rural communities. Special attention is given to helping transform the narrative of disability within the Cusco community as well as validating the efforts of the patients' families and caregivers. While in Cusco, we are immersed in Peruvian culture, staying with host families and visiting cultural sites in the area. During each trip, we host in-service trainings and promote sustainability of care by educating caregivers on positioning, transfer techniques, and adaptations to encourage participation in the community.
Our trip to Karoi, Zimbabwe takes place for three weeks every other September, during which we partner with Chidamoyo Christian Hospital to volunteer in their stroke clinic, Cerebral Palsy clinic, well child outreach clinic, inpatient rehabilitation department, and outpatient rehabilitation department. The hospital plans to build a separate building for Rehabilitation and we have the opportunity to assist with planning of the new space as part of our service as well as assisting in outfitting it with rehab equipment. As part of our goal of promoting sustainability, we participate in a collaborative training program in order to both learn from our hosts and share our own knowledge. We also have the opportunity to visit more rural villages and provide services to communities that otherwise would have extremely limited access to rehabilitation.