How can less than two dozen Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) students and faculty from Atlanta impact a Central American coffee farming community nearly 3,000 miles away? It turns out, quite a bit, even when the group only has one week to work.
Seventeen PT students and two faculty members left Atlanta in the early January cold for sunny Los Robles, Nicaragua. In small groups, they fanned out into the community to give PT treatment to the home-bound individuals with mobility issues. Other groups staffed local health clinics, conducting PT evaluations on children and yet another traveled to a nearby hospital.
Despite being students still learning their profession, the participants were pleased with the impact they made on the community.
“We were able to utilize the neurological and orthopedic skills we learned in the classroom to help individuals in their homes. The residents of Los Robles were loving and welcoming as we entered their community for the week,” says PT student Ashley Amatriain.
“[It] was touching to see the little things we learn in class really go a long way here,” says Tanya Thomas, another PT student.
Students also tackled services projects—building clay ovens and installing cement floors in residents’ homes. These home improvements are key health prevention measures for the locals as most homes have only dirt floors and open wood-burning stoves.
Students also soaked up the local culture in Los Robles during their stay on the coffee farm. Interactions with local children, learning to make Nicaraguan bread and sessions with Connect Communidad expanded the students’ horizons.
“My favorite part of the trip was organizing an afternoon of field day activities for some of the children in the community. We were able to teach them fun schoolyard games from our past, and they even taught us a few of their favorite games as well!” says Amatriain.
After a week in the clinics and doing construction, the group had a little time to take in local sights. A day trip on the way back to Managua gave everyone a small taste of Nicaragua. The team took a boat tour on Lake Nicaragua complete with a spider monkey encounter, a tour of the colonial city of Granada and a visit to the Masaya volcano, which is part of the Pacific Rim “ring of fire” closed out the sightseeing.
To see images from the trip, follow the PT Nicaraguan Study Abroad online.