This is a guest blog post by a Mary Witt Scholarship recipient, Libby M. Libby recently returned from a customized program with Xavier University-Occupational Therapy to Guatemala in May 2017. Thanks for the great reflection, Libby!
My time in Guatemala was one that I will never forget. During the first week I had the opportunity to live with a host family. My host mother was beyond hospitable and kind. She made delicious meals and we talked through the nigh about our families and friends. On my last day staying with her she even allowed me to try on traditional Guatemalan clothing. But I think my favorite part of staying with my host family was being able to try the delicious homemade hot chocolate, which consisted of chocolate made from my host grandmother who makes her own natural chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. The time even allowed me to improve my awful Spanish, through hand gestures and broken Spanish I somehow got through the week communicating with my host family who did not speak any English at all. Hopefully one day I will be able to visit them again.
During my week with my host family I also participated in a variety of cultural excursions with my fellow classmates. For example, some of my favorite excursions were visiting a weaving cooperative, a coffee plantation owned by guerilla fighters, a traditional Mayan sauna, and taking part in a salsa dancing class. All these excursions were absolutely phenomenal and I learned so much about Guatemalan culture and people. It was so hard when we had to leave our host families in Quetzaltenango, but I was excited to make journey for our final week in Guatemala to Guatemala City and Antigua.
During this last week I would be completing the service-learning portion of my trip through working at a government facility known as ABI. This facility provides housing for individuals with developmental disabilities in Guatemala. Initially it was really hard for me when we first visited ABI. It was obvious that this facility is a lot less progressive than facilities in The United States. It was obvious that the facility was understaffed and did not have the needed resources and money to properly care for its residents. However, after overcoming this hard reality I knew it was time to get to work. While at ABI I was able to work alongside occupational therapists to learn as much as I could about occupational therapy. Some of the most prominent areas that we focused on at ABI were proper feeding techniques and ways to improve sensory integration. Although I had read about some of these ideas in school it meant so much more to be able to learn about them in a hands on way. Not only was I learning about occupational therapy but I also formed relationships with a lot of the residents who lived at the facility. I loved singing songs in Spanish to them and just spending time with them. One of the girls absolutely loved it when I just sat and clapped with her. It meant so much for me to just be able to make these kids smile. At our last day at ABI the residents even put on a performance in which they sang and danced to various songs. It was adorable and made me so happy to see all of them having so much fun.
To end my time in Guatemala me and the rest of my classmates had the opportunity to climb a volcano! We even got to cook marshmallows over the heat produced from the volcano. It was such a cool and unique opportunity and a great way to end my time in Guatemala. Overall, I learned so much during my two weeks in Guatemala and I can’t wait to one day go back. The people and culture is beyond beautiful and like nothing I have ever experienced. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to travel to this country and will forever treasure the memories I made.