Occupational therapy students earning service learning hours in a Guatemalan orphanage this summer

Site provides care for children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected and/or are disabled | June 4, 2008

This June, 13 occupational therapy students, eight practitioners and four faculty members are setting off for Guatemala to expand upon a mission started by an alumna in 2006.

During the summer of 2006, alumna Stacey Walsh went on a mission trip to Guatemala with a Cincinnati group called MOMS (Mothers on a Mission). She told her story of working with children in orphanages as an occupational therapist while presenting at an occupational therapy conference. Students from Xavier’s Department of Occupational Therapy were in attendance and so inspired by her words and her video that they requested permission to conduct their service learning hours in Guatemala (rather than in Greater Cincinnati, as was tradition).

This year, Georganna Miller, Claire Morress, Carol Scheerer and Joan Tunningley are accompanying their students. Plans are in process for work at Anini, an orphanage, and San Hermanos Pedros, a long-term care facility and hospital. Both sites provide care for children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected and/or are disabled. Xavier’s 24 therapists will divide into two groups and then into three sub-teams of four persons each who will focus on wheelchairs, feeding and sensory-based/play.

Each group of 12 will stay at each site for two days and then switch sites. This way, continuity of care and education can be provided to the caretakers of the children and offer Guatemala 2008 participants the opportunity to experience both sites. Each sub-team will be comprised of a mix of students and practitioners. Group and sub-team assignments will be made according to experience, expertise, interest and availability of Spanish-speaking persons.

A post-trip “re-entry processing” meeting will be held mid-July to reflect upon the events and learning that occurred. This will be a meeting for both students and practitioners. Students will continue their learning via reflection, assignments and a presentation during the fall 2008 semester as they complete the requirements for HOCS 405 Occupational Justice II.

The practitioners include two physical therapists: Sandy Auberger and Melissa Holderby, and six occupational therapists: Tracy Gaboury, Joan May, Amber Carpenter, Amy Langhorne, Kate Lopez and Kathy Lotz. The last four are also Xavier alumnae.

In alignment with Xavier's mission to prepare men and women for lives of solidarity, service, and success, the mission of Guatemala 2008 is to offer a course-related academic international service learning option that will prepare occupational therapy majors to advocate for issues of occupation and justice.