WHEELING, W.Va., March 23, 2017 -- Wheeling Jesuit's physical therapy faculty and students gave the gift of mobility to 10 children in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico when they made their annual service trip earlier this year.
In January, WJU physical therapy faculty and students, some 33 in all, embarked on their annual service trip. For 18 years, the group has been working with 13 Mexican community partners, providing rehabilitation and medical services to children and adults in the Merida region.
In January, the group took along a special package - one that would give 10 local children the chance to walk more easily.
Wheeling Jesuit physical therapy students, working along side Dr. Mark Drnach, a member of the PT faculty and special faculty advisor to the president, Dr. Tim Knierim, a local physician and Bethany (McGrail) Sloane '09, a physical therapist, cut PVC pipes to make 10 pediatric walkers.
“Since walkers can be expensive, we took Tim's design, and purchased enough materials to make the walkers. Our PT students measured, cut all the pipes and packaged them up, making kits to be used during an educational session with local therapists and teachers,” Drnach said.
In Merida, the group of participants was taught how to assemble the walkers and make adjustments specific to each child's height, he explained.
The total cost to build the 10 walkers -- $120 or $12 per walker.
“We gave these children the ability to move. Being able to move gives them the opportunity to learn, and that's the greatest gift of all,” Drnach added.
Each year, the Physical Therapy Department organizes the trip to the Yucatan in an attempt to educate Wheeling Jesuit's physical therapy students about serving people in an international setting. The students learn how to treat the needs of children in a clinic that has few of the amenities that medical facilities have in the United States.
The 16 WJU students were paired with a preceptor and worked to provide care with five main goals - to be safe, be respectful of the local cultural, use Spanish skills, as well as non-verbal communication and develop specific clinical skills.
The group works with 13 community partners, three shelters operated by the following - The Daughters of Charity, the Missionaries of Charity and the Dominican Sisters. According to Drnach, they have limited resources to offer the residents in the area, so any help they receive from Wheeling Jesuit each year is a great benefit to those they serve.
“The sisters say it's like Christmas when we come each year,” he explained.
The primary purpose for the trip, Drnach said, it to give the students the opportunity to serve the children and adults in the clinic, while gaining hands-on training in the field of physical therapy.
“We do medical and rehabilitation consultations, provide on-site educational lectures and hands-on treatment to the children and adults who are served by our community partners in Mexico,” he explained.
In addition to the walkers, in the past the group has also taken a few pediatric wheelchairs, gait trainers and splinting supplies.
“The students find the experiential learning transformative, broadening their sense of civic responsibility and their compassion towards others,” Drnach added.