Finding Your Place- Guatemala

My name is Bailey and I had the life changing experience of going to Guatemala this year. I am a student in the Developmental Services Worker program and I was selected to join nine nursing students on this adventure to Guatemala. One of the greatest lessons I learned on this trip was that the stars will align and you will find your place in this world and find meaning in your life wherever you are (as long as your heart and mind is open). This trip was centred around health initiatives so initially finding my place or role on the trip was difficult amongst so many amazing and caring nursing students. Besides being drafted the role of team photographer I felt I was contributing very little. I saw the majority of the trip through my Nikon’s lens. But when I was doubting my purpose one hot day in the community of San Juan the world presented me with my cause. I saw a young girl who appeared to have Cerebral Palsy watching the other children cut and trace fabric. This young girl could not properly hold her pen due to spastic movements. I gave my camera to a friend and went and helped the young girl. I finally got to use my skill set (as a special education assistant) to help teach this girl how to cut and trace. I used the method of hand over hand. The young girl was happy and excited to work alongside me. This very moment rearranged all my thoughts and feelings. I suddenly understood why I was brought on this trip, I could bring my skills and passions of working with the disability community to Guatemala. After a lot of research I learned that in many Mayan civilizations that once dwelled in present day Guatemala, many children with disabilities were idolized. But currently they are seen as second class citizens, unable to access education and proper healthcare due to family embarrassment an lack of resources. After my first interaction with this girl in San Juan I made it my mission to ask community leaders about disabilities. Luckily the world had aligned perfectly for me that I didn’t need to ask questions, opportunities were just created. In the third community a man asked me to come photograph his home and family. I was delighted! He took me to his home where his wife was working. They asked me if I could take a picture of their son for them, he was napping but they still wanted one. They took me to their son who happened to have hydrocephalus, contracted muscles and ocular problems. The family was so proud of their son and loved him dearly despite the stereotypical embarrassment many parents felt in this country towards their children with disabilities. I was blown away by their compassion and told them that back home I was studying to become a disability support worker in either the school system or employment services. They were amazed to hear that children like their son were able to go to school and have jobs in Canada.

I am blessed to say that this trip gave me experiences like the two above that have entirely shaped my career goals and dreams. Thanks to this GCELE I have shifted career paths and plan on traveling to various schools in third world countries to teach about classroom modifications and the need for special education and assistance.

I hope that everyone who has the opportunity to go on a GCELE is lucky enough to have it change their worlds the way my experience has.


– Bailey

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