By: Jan Sandidge, Impact Belize Program Director
Winter term 2014 took 19 students and 6 Faculty/Staff on a service learning based study abroad to Belize through the College of Health and Human Services International Health and Human Service Learning Program (IHHSLP). The trip provided a hands-on interdisciplinary approach to learning while immersed in the culture of Belize.
Students, faculty, and staff from the departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Allied Health - Dental Hygiene, Public Health, School of Nursing, and Social work participated in the 9 day program. Local physicians, Dr. Sherry Jones, Glasgow, KY and Dr. Ryan Flammian, Indiana, along with three of Dr. Jones’ office staff joined the group in country to assist with service provision.
Participants were required to attend pre-trip orientation meetings to prepare and lay the foundation of working together as a team. The trip began in Belize City with an orientation to the healthcare system provided by the Ministry of Health Central Health Region. The group then traveled to Gales Point, Belize which is a remote Kriol village located in the Southern Lagoon of Belize, approximately 3 hours by bus south of Belize City.
During the stay in Gales Point participants converted a community center into a health clinic and then assisted in providing medical, dental, and pharmacy services to the village. The medical team treated approximately 130 villagers at the clinic and through home visits with the physicians. The dental team saw 47 patients providing: dental exams, cleanings, restorations, varnish application, extractions, and oral hygiene instruction. The Ministry of Health Central Health Region provided a team of healthcare professionals to assist two days allowing students to learn more specifically regarding their profession and how services are provided in the village. The team also met with the local elementary school faculty to discuss education with a focus on literacy development in the village. Students from Communication Sciences and Disorders, Dental Hygiene, and Social Work provided short workshops in the school regarding literacy development, good oral hygiene skills, and sexual education. Students from Public Health engaged in a study regarding air quality in the homes and were able to visit 20 different homes in the village to collect data. While in Gales Point participants engaged in community based cultural learning activities including a Sambai, basket making and cooking demonstration, manatee watch, and a trek through the jungle to see Ben Lomand Cave.
The last two nights of the trip were spent in Lamanai which is north of Belize City in the Orange Walk District. Students were able to contrast the cultural differences in Belize as the population in Lamanai is a more Spanish speaking community and nearby is an Amish community. Participants were able to visit and climb the Lamanai Mayan ruins. Activities also included learning about both land and water based plants and wildlife as well as a presentation by Dr. Frank Mazzotti, Ph.D., professor at University of Florida conducting research on wildlife in Belize.
Students from each discipline were able to enroll in a three credit hour course to complete this program. The program was concluded with a final reflective learning discussion. To learn more about this unique opportunity please visit us online at www.wku.edu/belizeprogram