|Our Belize Team!|
The laundry is done, the suitcases are wiped down and put away, and the mail pile has been conquered. However, the trip to Belize is still fresh in my mind, and I wanted to write down a few parting thoughts.
The Belize experience has been an incredible journey of learning and humility. The fall prevention program I designed helped start me on a good path toward offering a useful service, but what I found I need to do in order to provide OT in a cross-cultural setting is listen, listen, listen. The people will tell me what they need, and they did. They also were gracious in forgiving me for my mistakes and appreciating just some simple attention to their needs. So many good things happened, and not just with my work team. As I mentioned in my first post about Belize, I was with a group of 25 individuals who provided PT and OT service to people in Belize. Some were poor, others were not. All were in need of rehabilitation in a country that is sorely lacking in PT and OT services. Our teams included pediatric school care with NaRCIE; pediatric outpatient and home-based care with the Inspiration Center (both NaRCIE and Inspiration Center are services provided by donations and work with children with special needs); work with older adults in two residential facilities, Octavia Waight Centre and Sister Cecelia’s, operated by HelpAge (we would call them nursing homes); the fall prevention program with HelpAge’s adult day centres (more like senior centers than adult day care); and the home care team who visited home-bound older adults who are cared for by HelpAge aids. Here are some of the special memories and moments that occurred during the two weeks we were there.
· A PT and OT student worked together to wash and bandage the foot of a homeless man who had an open wound, and had only the river in which to bathe. The man wanted to know why bad things had happened to him, and if God cared. The student told him, “I don’t know, but I can wash your foot and make it feel better.”
· A team of OTs, PTs, and students worked together to get a woman in a residential facility out of a broken wheelchair and into a new one which they found in storage. The woman went from being hunched forward and unable to lift her head, to making eye contact, laughing, and engaging in activity.
· A student helped a man learn how to work with his severely disabled son. Later, the student found the man sitting in a chair with his son and rocking him and talking to him. The student said, “I can tell he is your buddy.” The man said, “I don’t know what I’d do without him and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.” This man had so little materially, but the student felt this child was in just the right place to get everything he needed from this caring father.
· Adjusting a walker helped a woman go from walking nearly doubled over, to standing up tall and using her walker correctly. This greatly increased her safety when walking.
You get the idea. Over and over, the students saw how small things – just little interventions – could make a big difference in someone’s lives. They gained respect for the people they served, and respect for their own profession. What’s more, they learned to work (and play, and laugh) with each other as an interdisciplinary team of PTs and OTs. I watched the two groups go from being divided along discipline lines at the beginning of the two weeks, to asking, why don’t we get together more often? They became clinicians and colleagues who could look past disciplinary boundary lines and appreciate each other for what each one had to offer, both personally and professionally. People coming together. Lives being changed. It doesn't get any better.
I must admit, the last four years have been a difficult journey for me, and I very nearly lost my way. I almost forgot who I was and what is important to me. This trip has taken me back to my roots, and at the same time propelled me forward, not just in my career and degree pursuit, but in an understanding of myself, who I am, and what I need to be doing. I have been reminded to not let the world around me squeeze me until I am unrecognizable, but to continue to seek transformation as I continue to become the person I was intended to be. Sound like something you might have read before? Romans 12:2.
Happy travels to you and yours on this journey of life.