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Bellin College students travel to Guatemala

January 4 – 12, Bellin College returned to Punta de Palma, Guatemala for the third year for a medical-based mission trip with El Faro, its on-site organizational partner. The Bellin College team continued established relationships at the Eliza Martinez Children’s Hospital and with the people who live in the Puerto Barrios Dump and the villages of Baltimore, Rio Salado, and Punta de Palma. Thirteen nursing students were selected for the mission trip. The preparation for the trip began in September with theory classes that focused on Mayan culture, the Guatemalan Civil War and resultant genocide, modern Guatemalan government and practices, common presenting symptoms, disease processes, and treatments. This theoretical content was critical for the students’ preparation to provide culturally sensitive and informed nursing care.

The team also provided CPR training for the hospital staff along with a provider-led teaching opportunity on respiratory assessments of infants and children. The students had the opportunity to meet nursing, physician, and hospital directors to discuss healthcare in the Eliza Martinez Children’s Hospital, the only publicly run children’s hospital in all of Guatemala. They discussed future learning opportunities and potential partnership opportunities with Bellin College regarding supplies and training of staff members.

Students then assisted the four medical providers in setting up three clinic sites. One was set up in the Puerto Barrios Dump where approximately 300 people make a living recycling what they find in the Dump. There, 80 children live and face the threats of abandonment and human trafficking. The other two clinic sites were in the villages of Rio Salado and Baltimore.

This mission trip was formative and “life-changing” for the students. They struggle with “reverse-culture shock” as the reality of social injustice challenges across the world settles in with them. They worry about the children and families they cared for and had to leave behind, and hope the care they gave makes a difference in the lives of the Guatemalan people.