physical therapy

Community, Authenticity, and Joy

February 13th, 2017

Léelo en español

Written by Laura Bonin, GSU Physical Therapy Student

Months of planning, endless crowdfunding emails, and feelings of anticipation and excitement all preceded a weeklong trip for fourteen physical therapy students, one professor, and two physical therapists from the Atlanta community. But what better way to start the New Year than leaving the privileges we value, including the luxuries of our own homes in the United States, and traveling to Nicaragua. There we were able to share our physical therapy knowledge and skills while immersing ourselves in some of the intangibles the Nicaraguans hold so dear: community, authenticity, and joy.

During the week we saw community in finding contentment outside our comfort zone. Nicaraguans made us feel a part of their community from day one, even as we relied on nonverbal communication and embraced the flexibility of our daily schedule. We entered homes to treat some of the sickest and most vulnerable members of Los Robles and found ourselves making instantaneous connections built off of trust and empathy. By focusing on the components of patient centered care during each home visit, we built relationships and memories with smiles and laughter, something more difficult to do with patients back home.

However, true community is built on the foundation of authenticity, losing the façade of who we want others to think we are and focusing solely on who we really are. The Los Robles community is the epitome of an authentic community. When we didn’t have our physical therapy hat on we participated in home improvement projects, witnessing firsthand the pride men and women took in lending a helping hand to their neighbors and welcoming our group like family. The brigadistas also embraced authenticity, helping bring basic medical knowledge to those in need, regardless of their age or complexity of the information.

The final theme that illuminated every activity and encounter in Los Robles was joy. For the opportunity to spend time with family. For the bonds made with new friends. For the ability to work on projects while also imparting sustainable healthcare from which the community will continue to benefit. We are so thankful for the life and culture that was poured into us throughout our week in Nicaragua and are eager to take the togetherness of community, the rawness of authenticity, and the contagious nature of joy into our last clinical rotation to leave a mark on every patient just as the Nicaraguans did for us!

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Learning Gratitude from the children of Los Robles

February 1st, 2016

Written by guest blogger: Anisha Patel, volunteer, GSU School of Physical Therapy

Tucked in the lush green mountain region of northern Nicaragua lies the rural community of Los Robles. The community, built by the hands of its coffee farmers, is not only alive with the sounds of creatures living under the brush of its landscape, but also the joy that surrounds its people. It is here that our student physical therapy group experienced one of the most memorable adventures of our lives.

The most impactful experience for me was having the chance to play with the children of the community. All day, I was terrified. Never having worked with a large group of children before, the millions of ways it could all go wrong was constantly in my mind as we approached the home that would serve as our base. The children were already standing at the porch – silent, waiting. I marveled at their stillness, their patience.

Learning to play duck, duck, goose

Learning to play duck, duck, goose

We were greeted with a kind shyness. As we began to play, the children began to open up and laugh, accepting us without a second thought. Even though I speak little Spanish, it was easy to connect with each of them. We spoke in a language beyond words — one that was filled with gestures, laughter, and a lot of love.

What struck me the most is how much joy these children exuded. They each thoroughly enjoyed even the most simple games. When they fell, they got up and kept running. In the span of two hours, not one of them shed a tear, yelled an insult, or displayed any displeasure. They each rose to every challenge with the grace of the wise old and the unparalleled joy of those who have learned to appreciate everything. From them, in such a short span, I learned the true meaning of gratitude.

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