Posted by: Katie | April 26, 2012

Volunteering in Guatemala

Torrie began the Nursing Program at the same college I attended in Wisconsin; we went to school together for many years and were fortunate enough to end up having our dorm rooms right a few doors away! It was a great accomplishment for Torrie to finally earn her Nursing degree after all the hard work – believe me, she seemed to be  constantly studying or completing homework; it takes great dedication. Eventually, she joined a volunteer trip to Guatemala to help the Hearts in Motion organization – and even came back the next year for more volunteering. These adults and children need your help and any donation to Hearts in Motion makes a difference.

1. Why did you decide to pursue a degree in Nursing?

I feel like I have always been interested in the medical field. My grandfather was a Radiologist, and as kids he was always showing us pictures of cool things (the most memorable being a huge hairball in a stomach). So, I feel like I have always wanted to work in some aspect of the healthcare field, and the connection between families and patients and nurses really appealed to me.

2. A Nursing degree is quite challenging. How did you handle/overcome the stress while in school?
 I think having other nursing students going through the same triumphs and same successes really helped get me through school. I had the most supportive family and friends who would always be there for me when I needed them (and understood when I was stuck in the library on the weekends).

3. How did you first learn of the Guatemala Program and what sparked your interest in it?
One of my friends heard about the program Hearts in Motion (HIM). She learned about the non-profit organization through her church and thought it was a perfect fit for nursing students. HIM is a growing organization working with people in Guatemala. explains all about the different programs; however, a main focus is having medical clinics throughout the villiages. I really have an interest in international healthcare and serving the underpriviledged population. The trip to Guatemala was the first health care service trip I had taken-and I was blown away!

4. Can you explain your experiences there and what the purpose of the program is?

It is difficult to sum up my two trips I took there. Basically, we (nursing students, nurse practitioners, doctors, and HIM staff) ran clinics based out of Zacapa, Guatemala. Clinics could be a 20 minute bus ride or a 3 hour bus ride through the mountains and a hike across a river. We would set up in a church and see as many patients as we could and the patients would be provided vitamins and basic medication if needed (antibiotics, worm medications, tylenol, etc). In some severe cases, the staff would take contact information and arrange for the patient to see the medical/surgical teams on the next visit. The most basic message throughout both trips is that people are so happy. Despite how little we think they have, they are happy.

The most moving story I will always think of is of a couple I met while in Zacapa. We met the couple, who were living on a porch;  married for 70+ years, they were the sweetest, loving couple. He had Parkinsons and she was the caregiver. HIM met the couple when the wife helped the husband up a mountain to a clinic to get the medications for Parkinsons – HIM kept track of them as much as possible. On our way back from a clinic, we happened to find out they had been staying on a porch. Karen, the founder of HIM, was on the trip with us and after talking with them, offered housing, food, clothes, basically she offered to set them up for the rest of their lives if they wanted to move into the HIM house (about 40 minutes away). As an outsider, I was completely blown away by their faith. The couple had refused to move because they had been going to the same church for decades and did not want to leave the community. Their faith was the most amazing life lesson I learned in Guatemala.

 5. How can readers help?

There is always a way people can help. Whether they want to travel, donate money, donate items, or donate time, everything is appreciated. HIM’s website lists their most dire needs.

6. What was the biggest lesson you learned while in Guatemala?

 7. What other organizations interest you?
As of now, I haven’t been involved in any other organizations. There are so many grass root non-profit organizations out there, but I have yet to find another one quite like HIM. I’m hoping in the near future I will have another opportunity to travel again.

8. Where have you been working now? What are your duties and do you enjoy it?
I am currently working as a registered nurse at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I work on a neuromedical/telemetry unit. We are a stroke certified unit, so our main patient population are stroke patients in addition to seizure monitoring, back/brain post surgicals, and medical overflow. I am also starting to work on completing my masters degree at Marquette University.

Hearts In Motion Terrain
an old gurney. Hearts in Motion has donated many new ones as well as various other tools/items.

Homes on the outskirts.


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