OT, PT programs travel to Guatemala

Physical therapy students are pictured in Guatemala.
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Physical therapy students are pictured in Guatemala.
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More than 350 residents in a remote village in Guatemala received therapeutic care from 22 Grand Valley health professions students and faculty members during an interprofessional service-learning trip.

It was the fifth such trip for physical therapy students, who were joined for the first time by occupational therapy students. The 10-day trip, which ended August 3, was organized by Hearts in Motion, an organization based in Indiana that provides medical care in the U.S., Central and South America. Joining the group were 10 speech therapists from Washington State University.

Susan Cleghorn, assistant professor of occupational therapy, said people were so anxious for therapy or information, they would stand in line for hours at churches and other makeshift clinics.

“We were about three hours from Guatemala City and traveled to four or five other villages in the area,” Cleghorn said.

Ashley Widrig, who recently graduated with a master’s in occupational therapy, called the clinic days in Zacapa intense but gratifying.

“I learned things from the people of Guatemala that would have taken me years to learn in my practice,” said Widrig, who graduated in August with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. “I learned to be creative with very little resources and use what I had, even if it was just my hands or a smile and listening ears.”

Cleghorn said some members of the group also gave an in-service presentation at a nutrition center on how to feed malnourished infants.

Barb Baker, assistant professor of physical therapy, said the group was aided by undergraduate students who majored in Spanish and served as interpreters during the trip.