Guatemala Overview

Our group of 4 recently returned from San Lucas. Below I have provided an overview of the thoughts and experiences about the trip form Stephanie Stauss, Megan Gibson and Lynn Simon. Paige Simon (Lynn’s daughter) also went on this trip. It was a great experience had by all!

Stephanie Stauss, PTA

I was asked about my high & low from our journey & that is hard to answer, because so much of the trip was a “high” for me, to be away from the whirlwind of life (home/work schedules, events, appointments, productivity;) & be able to dive in & be completely “present” while on this mission was something I needed more than I realized. The beauty of Guatemala is never ending, between the landscaping, the culture & the people. I have learned so much from this journey: to embrace the simple things in life, that our daily schedule may not work out the way we planned (not always my original plan, but God’s plan), ice cream and coffee are essential, dogs & babies are cute no matter what part of the world you are in & kindness is key…it may be small to you & me, but might be life changing to someone else. I’ve also realized how lucky we are to live in this country, with all the opportunities & services in place for people struggling with poverty or disabilities & our healthcare system in general, also our roads (so smooth or being properly fixed if not;), sewer system & waste disposal is pretty on point. Overall, I can’t wait to bring my family along for another Guatemala adventure (I feel I’ll have a few more solo trips before they may be ready;)! Thank you Bigstone for allowing us to be a part of something so amazing!

Megan Gibson, ORT/L

Wow, what an experience. I don’t know where to begin. The people of Guatemala touched me deeply and will forever hold a special place in my heart. I’ve been blessed to travel often and have been to many developing areas of the world. I saw similarities in this trip and experienced some surprises. I loved the language and getting to use my fluency in Spanish to communicate. I loved the rugged mountain terrain, the beauty of the lake. The patients we saw were all so grateful and happy, even in the face of poverty and disability. Their Pace of life is slower, with more opportunity to enjoy life. I couldn’t believe how fast this first week back to work has flown, in comparison to my week in Guatemala. The return of life stressors, getting lost in detail, requiring more time to pause and just breath. Less is more, and ownership of things doesn’t create happiness. Rather, relationships with others, pride in your life roles, and being alive we’re driving factors. Parts of me feel sad, for the therapy model available to Guatemalans, compared to our offerings here in the U.S. for example I think of our young man (31) we saw at the hospital who was one-week post CVA. He had been sent home once his vitals were stable, unable to walk, talk, swallow well, with no equipment or services. We squeezed as much as we could into a two-hour window, sending him home with a wheelchair, AFO, UB/LB exercises, a hand splint I made using a coffee percolator! The potential he has now is far greater, but I know without a shadow of doubt he would have even greater chances with the therapy models offered here. I think it’s easy to take life for granted until you experience a trip like this. I got home and looked at my 4-acre property and 2,000sq ft home, imaging how many “Guatemalan homes” would fit here. I also feel less challenged by walking upstairs after all the steep roads we hiked. I am so grateful to have gone on this trip, to strengthen my skills as a therapist, relationship builder, a mentor. God opened my heart and said come, be my hands, be my feet. And I had so much comfort and peace in Him while I was there. He put us here to help his people, no matter where they live. It has helped ground me and refocus on the important things in life, set goals for my future. Everyone employed by BST should strongly consider this trip. It’s a once in a lifetime service to God, Something I will never forget.

Lynn Simon, DPT, ATC, Mgr. of Prof. Dev. & Sports. Med.

So, I am going to do my summary a little different with some FAQ’s I have had since my trip.

  • You don’t usually treat little kiddos. Did you feel prepared to work with the kids you saw?
  • Yes, the way we ‘treat’ patients in San Lucas is so much different. Although I do not know much about Peds, maternal instinct and the knowledge I do have guides me. In San Lucas, we have to think, “What can I do or ask the parent to do that will have the biggest impact on the child long term”
  • We have information from SLP’s concerning swallowing, speech that I can reference if needed.
  • There is also info concerning sensory treatment, primitive reflexes to reference.
  • And what we do give them cannot be an 30 minute long HEP like we do here!
  • Dads work, often times several jobs, (the average daily income is $4)
  • Moms are taking care of other children -6, 7, 8, kids,
  • they do not have our conveniences of a stove/oven, washing machine, microwave, etc. How long does it take to wash a family of 8 clothes by hand? I don’t know and hope to never find out.
  • Isn’t it scary/unsafe?
  • I have never felt unsafe. The Mission is safe. Our hotel is less than 2 blocks away and it is a gated hotel. We do not have to worry about anything being taken from our rooms by housekeeping – if that happened, the Mission would not use their hotel and they would be out of the majority of their business). After dark, I avoid walking around town and going places alone, but I also avoid that in Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, etc. at night
  • How did your daughter (Paige) handle the trip?
  • Great! This was Paige’s second trip as she went with me in 2012 when she was 9. She loved it so much it was really her driving me to go back. As long as we got ice cream every night, she was a happy camper!
  • I will definitely ALWAYS CHERISH this time we had together.
  • What is the hotel like?
  • It is clean, the beds are comfortable that I have no problem sleeping, bathrooms have a sink, shower, toilet. There is hot water.
  • There is now a bar up and open area on top of the hotel to gather at! Definitely a bonus😊
  • You can’t eat any of the food, can you?
  • The Mission prepares food and what they prepare is safe for you to eat. The Mission now delivers a hot lunch to us if we are not able to return to the mission for lunch!! No more sandwiches😊
  • Is the mission Food any good? The food has improved by 100%. I am a very picky eater and there was only one meal I really did not care for.
  • There are shops with ice cream, candy bars, chips, pop, etc. There are restaurants to eat at if desired.
  • What cannot be eaten is food prepared by street vendors

Isn’t it expensive?

  • We are so fortunate BST pays nearly everything! Your wages for the week, ½ the flight cost, baggage fee, hotel in Minneapolis, transportation, meals and lodging.
  • All employees have to pay for was ½ the flight, money for souvenirs and snacks. The trip was definitely worth the sacrifices made to pay ½ the flight.

What did you like the best? This is hard to sum up into only one!

  • Having NO schedule to adhere to
  • Spending time with my daughter
  • Meeting the PT students from the University of Mary and working with them
  • Ice cream and plantain chips
  • Hiking up an equivalent of 96 flights of steps to see the sunrise