A recap of the 4th annual Regis DPT program service learning trip in Peru: August 2014
Every year as we return to Peru to team with CMMB (Catholic Medical Mission Board), I marvel at how much we learn and continue to evolve within our short term mission trip model. This 4th annual trip was no exception.
After hosting three international continuing education events in northern Peru, last year we began to shift our focus from a continuing education model to a bigger focus on community based rehabilitation. Northern Peru has had a large growth in the number of continuing education opportunities offered in recent years. While the conferences the past three years in Trujillo were valuable in a number of educational and community building ways, they weren't as sustainable as going to the source and focusing on teaming with local universities in curriculum development.
From an itinerary perspective, we felt that the experience would be more enriching for everyone involved if the Regis students had a more focused experience of several days with just one community partner. We also began to shift our focus as CMMB's needs changed. The initial community based rehab. (CBR) project "Rehabilitacion con Esperanza," based out of Trujillo, was having great success and no longer requested additional training as it is currently self-sustained by the amazing efforts of the local volunteer team. Best of all- due to CMMB's success in Trujillo, they decided to begin a similar model CBR project in a new location!
So, in August of 2014, 9 Regis first year DPT students, professor Nancy Mulligan, myself, Regis alum Amy Forsman, and translator Maria Roldan headed to the highlands in northern Peru, to a city called Huancayo. Huancayo already has a CMMB team in place who work with mothers and children under age 3 in different aspects of health, nutrition, hygeine, prevention and early stimulation. The team identified over 40 children in the area who have disabilities. We went out in small groups doing home evaluation and treatment sessions with the children and their families. The population demographics varied with diagnoses ranging from CP and Down Syndrome to severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, wound infection, orthopedic complaints such as rib pain, tibial torsion and pie plano, mental retardation, speech and motor delay, etc. Groups paired with with local a PT and speech therapist in individualized evaluation and treatment sessions. We also collected baseline data for research and monitoring/evaluation purposes. We rounded as a large group with certain cases and I was impressed by the preparation of the Regis students and their willingness to jump out of their comfort zones in many situations. We were extremely blessed to count on the leadership and guidance of Amy Forsman, an extremely talented pediatric specialist who joined us on the trip this year.
Even though I've done this trip four times now, it's still hard to put into words the depth and impact of what we saw and experienced. For some of the students, it was their first experience with extreme poverty. (This year, the photos won't do it justice, as I did not take any while we were in patient homes). The community welcomed our group with open arms and we were blown away by the love, family values and happiness we encountered despite some extremely difficult socioeconomic situations. Due to location (most specialists are in Lima) and financial reasons, many of these families had never taken their child to see a doctor. On our last day in Huancayo, CMMB threw a fiesta in the park with all of the families. Many parents were hesitant to go, commenting that they had never brought their child who has a disability out of the home before - ever. That floored me.
The fiesta was a day of laughter and games and community building. None of the parents knew eachother beforehand, despite being neighbors, and I hope that the project will serve as a form of social support for caregivers as it moves forward. We felt honored to be included in the start-up efforts of this CBR project and are really excited about CMMB's passionate new PT/SLP team that's already in place in this community. They are there day in and day out, walking from home to home to make sure that these children receive the rehabilitation services they need. And, hopefully someday, the assistive devices, pharmacological management, psychology services, occupational therapy, educational inclusion, workshops with community agents, and other specialty areas that CMMB's other project has encompassed in northern Peru will be available to these incredible families.
The service learning trip also included a visit to a hospital in Lima with my hero Ana Herrera, a PT who runs a chronic pain program. We were invited to the ESSALUD hospital in Huancayo, where we made new contacts involved in academia who invited us to return and potentially partner together in the future for educational events and student exchanges. Nancy and I were invited to speak at a private clinic and foresee a great potential for multiple international clinical rotation sites in Huancayo in future years.
Of course, no trip to Peru is complete without sampling local ceviche! (and other tastes of customs and culture). The students went to Machu Picchu, and while in Huancayo we experienced Peruvian highland traditional art, food, history, and some high altitude hiking.
A huge thanks goes out to Regis University, and in particular Nancy Mulligan, who devoted a large amount of time in logistics and preparing the students for pediatric cases this year. Thanks Amy Forsman for your compassion, superb expertise and teaching skills, and for joining us on such late notice! Thank you to our amazing student group: Arturo Carillo, Ashley Leatzow, Ashley Sloan, Dani Hill, Jordana Saliman, Kelly Farrell, Matt Sullivan, Mikayla George, Tess Slapper.
MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS to CMMB and in particular Claudia Llanten, Cecilia Izarra, Merci Orbegoso, Carmen Rodriguez, and Lorely Martinez. Thanks to Ana Herrera and Dr. Jorge Soria Gonzales for welcoming us to your hospitals and clinics.
Thank you to everyone at Samay Hostel for your hospitality and lodging in Huancayo, and to Maria Roldan for your invaluable translating skills!