2015 Belize Blog

San Ignacio, Cayo District Belize

Sunday, March 8, 2015
Today is the day we finally leave for BELIZE!! We all met at the airport bright and early (6AM) to start our journey to Latin America. We flew out of Wilmington at 7:30 landing in ATL at 8:40. From here we boarded our flight to Belize and arrived in 11:40 Belize time. Belize is two hours behind the US, meaning that if it's 5AM in Belize then it's 7AM in the US. We were picked up by our tour guide from Galen University, Josh. This is the college supporting us while we are here in Belize. They have helped plan every clinic and excursion. Unfortunately a student's luggage was left behind in Atlanta but she kept a positive outlook and was calm the entire ordeal. On this trip there are 16 undergrads, 6 grad students, and 4 faculty and staff. We also have a special couple traveling with us, Tom and Alice. Total there are 28 of us and it couldn't be a more outstanding group of individuals. Our home this week will be the Log Cab-Inn.

On our way to our new home for the week, we stopped at Galen University. It is a beautiful school that is home to many students in the surrounding area. There are many murals painted on the walls by past students and local artists. We will hold a clinic here later on this week! We arrived at the hotel late in the day and were assigned to our rooms. After some rest and relaxation we met up later that night for dinner at the Log Cab-Inn. We discussed what would be expected of us over the next few days and also our schedule.

We are so excited to be here and to provide care for the people of San Ignacio!!

Monday, March 9, 2015
Today we woke up at 6:30 to start our day touring around the village of San Ignacio. We left at 7:45, excited for the day ahead. Our destination was about an hour away in a neighboring village. This was suppose to be our first clinic of the trip but due to unforeseen circumstances it was cancelled and rescheduled for later in the week! This gave us the opportunity to really see San Ignacio and all it has to offer its people. After this we decided to ride around an area called "Spanish Lookout." This is a Mennonite community. A Mennonite to us in America would be a traditional Amish person but here in Belize this is a progressive culture. They migrated from Germany in the 1950s and have been growing and growing ever since. Most of the food supplied to the region is grown by the Mennonites. After experiencing the rolling fields of Spanish Lookout, we headed to a local ice cream shop for a snack! We also went to a popular local gift shop so that we could buy stuff for everyone back home!

The rest of today was spent touring two hospitals and and a home for the elderly. The first hospital we visited was a private hospital established in the 1970s by the Seventh Day Adventists. The day we went a group from Tennessee was doing work on the outside and would be there through the 15th. This hospital can be compared to an urgent care in the United States, except with birthing facilities and ct scans. This hospital is set up on a needs basis. The doctors come in when there is an emergency or when people have scheduled appointments. They also still have paper charting which is something you don't typically see in the states. Today is a holiday in Belize called National Heroes and Benefactors Day. It is specifically honoring Baron Henry Bliss, who traveled here from England and made tremendous contributions to the belizean culture. All the schools were closed today and a lot of people had taken off from the hospital as well. This hospital had very nice facilities and offers the surrounding community a safe haven.

The next place we went was the home for the elderly. This establishment is home to 31 senior adults, ranging from ages 65 to 93. They were all so happy to see us and immediately we were engaged in conversation. Some of the residents here have from suffered strokes, debilitating and mental illness. No matter what they had went through, they still maintained a positive outlook on life and all it has to offer, even at the ripe age of 93. From here we went to the newer public hospital in San Ignacio. Doctor Ramirez, who was traveling with us, worked at this hospital and was more than excited to show us around. This hospital also had a lot to offer and they were quite busy in the emergency room! This hospital was doing a campaign to promote breast feeding so we learned a lot about breast feeding mothers and what life is like for a new mother in Belize.

We got back to the Log Cab-Inn around 4:00 that afternoon and were given the rest of the afternoon to relax and gather our thoughts for the next day of clinical. We are very excited to see what the rest of the week holds!!!!!

PS... The student's luggage arrived safe and sound today!!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Today was our first day of clinic in the beautiful country of Belize. We started our morning back at Galen University, providing clinic services and education to the faculty, staff, students, and their families. For never working together as a team, we united as a strong force to establish our physical space. Triage, four treatment areas, a patient education area and pharmacy were erected with minimal supplies under a car port on the campus. Patients were waiting for us to open- what a great feeling! We enjoyed meeting the students and hearing their stories of hopes for empowerment and change.

After lunch, we divided into three groups: one group remained at Galen, one group went to a public school, and the last group went to St. Burmabus school. At the public school, the children walk home daily for lunch. Upon returning, the class brushes their teeth together and complete a chant before classes begin. A feeling of protection was sensed by the student nurse practitioners upon arrival, but after a brief time of interaction, our presence was welcomed with open arms! About 60 students were assessed, treated, and educated by the nurse practitioner students and nursing students. Diagnoses included: vision abnormalities, allergic rhinitis, and cardiac murmurs.

At St. Burmabus, we were introduced to the children through song; the first class arrived to our treatment area and erupted into a beautiful melody. This was followed by smile after smile, and hug after hug. The appreciation of our presence and the attention that was being paid to these children was heartwarming. Approximately 90 children were evaluated at this school; diagnoses included dental caries, impacted cerumen, impetigo, fungal infections, and cardiac murmurs.

At the conclusion of the day, we returned to Galen University and were given an education lesson in the history of Belize. Our trip advisor, Joshua, then sang and drummed for us in his native language. He was even brave enough to have us join in on the last song! It was a great history lesson and cultural experience for us all.

The other great lesson of the day is Belize time. In North Carolina we are, in general, a fast paced society. A large group of us decided to go out to celebrate a birthday (happy birthday Amanda!). Three hours later, our meal was finished. The food was excellent, the drinks were cold and the company was great.. But that surely made for a very long day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What a great start to the day- as we were steadily preparing the bus for departure, it slowly began to roll precariously down a slight incline without the driver and with students on broad. Thanks to the quick actions of one of burrs practitioner students, all was saved and no one (or animal) was injured. Whew-what a way to get the blood pumping early in the morning!

The Belizan people are a friendly group. The willingness of them to help others run deep within the community. On our way to the village we were providing services, we stopped to assist two ladies with transportation. This is apparently a common practice within the country. We made the trek to Duck Run where we established our clinic at the local school. We were met by the local community health worker who had people waiting to be seen. In the six hours we were there, over 120 people were seen. Diagnoses included: parasites, vision changes, dermatological conditions, respiratory infections, and musculoskeletal complaints. A small group ventured out with the community health worker to visit four homes of individuals who were unable to come to the clinic. Education and medications were provided.

During lunch we had some down time and several of the students joined the children in some friendly games of Simon Says, tag, and duck duck goose. The boys even threw a football around two of the nursing students.

On the way back to the resort we took some time to stop at the local market for some souvenir shopping. Our last stop was Sweet Ting cake shop- what a great afternoon snack!

Many of us wrapped up the evening, sitting near the pool, sharing stories and forming friendships that will remain with us for years to come- you better "Belize" it!

2015 Belize Students Belize 2015 Poolside

Thursday, March 12, 2015
We started the day being tourists at one of the local Mayan archeological sites! To get to the site we were visiting we had to cross the river on a ferry. The name of the site was Xunantunich which translates to "lady of the stone." The name came about because a lady dressed in white was always seen walking through the stone temples but no one was ever able to follow her. The Mayan temples were beautiful! The narrow stone steps to the top of the temple were a little alarming but extremely worth the hike to see the view from the top! Breathtaking and awe-inspiring are the words that come to mind. We could see for miles and miles, we even could see a road that was in Guatemala. Some of us were more brave than others, having no trouble coming back down the temple, while others chose to scoot on our bottoms down the steps. As we were leaving there was a light rain but we welcomed the nice cool relief after working up a sweat hiking the Mayan ruins. We had such a great morning but we all new the day had only just begun.

We quickly went back to the Log Cabin Inn, where we are staying, to change clothes and reload the bus for our clinic at a local high school and college. We stopped in downtown San Ignacio to grab a quick lunch of toastados and empanadas. We got to the school and sat up our tables and supplies and immediately started seeing students, faculty, and community members. In just the afternoon we saw over 80 people! Diagnoses consisted of vision impairments, seasonal allergies, dehydration, sprained ankle, and a cyst. We've been able to donate a lot of fun things to the students: stickers, balls, toys, toothbrushes, and medicine. Headbands of Hope has graciously donated 20 beautiful headbands to the people of Belize. Headbands of Hope is a company in North Carolina that sells headbands, and for every headband purchased one is donated to a child with cancer and a dollar is donated to child cancer research. We are thankful that they and everyone else made donations for our trip!

Some of our team gathered supplies and went into the surrounding village for some home visits. We were greeted with smiling and hopeful faces as we walked inside the first home. We were to see a lady who had been in and out of the hospital with several health issues lately. Before we could finish with her more local residents were flooding the doors wanting to be seen. We saw several adults with high blood pressure, muscular pain, dementia, and even a dog bite. One of the small children had an ear infection and we were able to prescribe medicine and vitamins to these patients. We loved the opportunity and were grateful for the time spent educating and hopefully making an impact on these peoples lives!

After a long but rewarding and exciting day, we all had dinner across the road at a resort where we were served a wonderful three course meal and then went on a hike through the Belizean jungle on a medicinal plant hike. Despite our tired legs from hiking this morning, walking through the jungle was so much fun! While we were all very jumpy at the site of any spiders, which we saw quite a few, we all enjoyed experiencing the wildlife of Belize thanks to Mrs. O'Donnell for arranging it!

Friday, March 13, 2015
Hello from Belize. Today was a wonderful day spent in San Antonio, and no that's not in Texas. We set up a clinic in the center square and we were able to see almost one hundred patients. Common complaints were seasonal allergies, ear infections, skin rashes, pregnancy care, infant and children well checks, eye exams, urinary tract infections, upper respiratory infections, and we saw a little bit of head lice and parasites. Home visits were necessary as some of the patients were unable to come to us. A team went out and provided medical care to those in the surrounding area. After working all week together, the health care team worked like a well oiled machine.

The people in the town were grateful for the education and treatment they received. It was great to see the kids playing and the family and town unity that existed here. All over Belize we see the strength of the communities. Poverty is in the eye if the beholder. I don't think that they see what we see. I am glad we could give them something that they needed. Many women had muscular skeletal complaints but upon further evaluation we found that they wash on wash boards and strain and lift on a daily basis. Many older women care for the babies of the younger women so they can work. The kids are required to attend school till eighth grade however in this town there were only two small schools and over 500 students. We drove by the school on our way out of town and it had no AC, all windows open, and kids were flowing out of it when the bell rang. I can only imagine how how it is going to be in the coming months.

Many archeological sites dot the landscape. As we rounded a bend on our way to the city another Myan ruin scaled the mountainside. What a treat it is to be in this area of the world. Thanks to all our family and friends who made this possible for us to be here. Thanks to all of our professors who gave us the skills to serve here in this part of the world.

Saturday, March 14, 2015
What a great way to end our beautiful week in Belize!

First, we set up our clinical in the local market place. People surrounded the tent to be seen by our group of healthcare providers. It was warming to see people smile just for being provided with something as basic as vitamins. It is amazing how things that we take for granted back in the states can be so important to people elsewhere. We gave out the rest of our donations to the children there. Faces lit up at the site of stickers, clothing, hair bands, and candy. Some of the children were there to help their parents run stands so it was nice to see them smile about having something to play with.

While doing clinical, we each took turns to take a break and walk around the market and look at what was being sold. The market was FULL of people who come every week to get their fruits, clothing, or whatever they could need. It was all so beautiful! So many different fruits and colorful clothing! There were also slates with carvings on them. Even bunny rabbits for sale! Everyone seemed to find a treasure to take home.

After returning to the Log Cab-Inn, we were quickly off again for the long awaited river tubing!!! This was the talk of the week so we were VERY excited. Some of us had never been tubing before so new experiences were set and fears were conquered as we relaxed in the river and tackled the river rapids! Fingers crossed that we got a little tan! A lot of laughs were shared and we had a great time. This was definitely a major highlight of the trip.

Closing up the week, we ended the night with a buffet dinner thrown by the Log Cab-Inn. Shout out to them for treating us so well throughout this week with breakfasts and lunches and dinners as well as warm service. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MRS. O'DONNELL! And last but not least a big shout out to our guide, Josh. He was our saving grace throughout this whole week. Always asking what we need and never once said no. No amount of thank you will ever be enough.

This week we gained experience as well as a new family. We shared experiences, knowledge, skills, and hope. We touched lives and in return our lives were touched, all because of a crazy adventure in Belize!