Saturday, March 5, 2011

Almost 300 students at Xavier University in Cincinnati are heading off to spend their spring breaks serving others rather than being served.

On this blog, we are following a dozen students traveling to Guatemala with two Xavier staff and four medical professionals, three from Los Angeles. They will try to post every night after a full day of serving great need.

All will spend eight days with Heart to Heart International Inc., a global humanitarian organization, which operates an office in Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala. Heart to Heart has just opened a medical clinic in the 586-family village, the first of its kind. No one in the village has ever seen a doctor. Xavier is bringing the first-ever medical team to serve the community both in the newly-built facility and with home visits.

In addition, Heart to Heart’s comprehensive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiative addresses access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation. WASH seeks to prevent the incidence of water-borne disease by providing health screenings, de-worming, hygiene education, installation of latrines, stoves and water filters in schools and homes, and instructing recipients on the installation and use of the filtration systems.

The Sololá region has one of the highest incidence rates of childhood diarrhea—due mainly to its proximity to contaminated water, but complicated by sanitation issues and hygiene practices. The students will work with Heart to Heart to empower residents to participate in improving the health of their own communities. When communities take ownership over the health of their people, results are long-lasting.

“The inventory of the village’s health, and our medical attention and treatment of the Mayan villagers has the potential to change the future of this small community,” said Rabbi Abie Ingber, Founding Director for Interfaith Community Engagement and the convener of the medical mission. “In addition, our pre-health-profession students will have a unique opportunity to learn medicine in proximity to four fine practitioners. This experiential learning will propel them to even greater meaningfulness and success in their future professional choices.”

AS you can see in previous posts from January 2010, Xavier’s Office of Interfaith Community Engagement made a highly successful interfaith medical mission trip to Jamaica with a similar group of students and professionals. In 4.5 days, the group saw 511 patients. For only a couple of hours did they see a beach – most days were spent among old slave huts in remote regions of Steer Town Jamaica, seeing people who had never received any medical care. Six had to be evacuated to a hospital for immediate attention.

Stay tuned.