Monthly Archives: June 2018

Travel Home from Belize – Day 8

Written by Madeleine Munn ’19 to recount Saturday, June 16, 2018:

1 hour and 13 minutes. We will touch down in Norfolk then, and there is no world in which I could capture 8 days in 1 hour and 13 minutes. Douglas Adams said that “to give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” You could not have measured the chance to turn on a light in a young girl’s mind which had never even known it was in the dark. You could not have bought the smile on Ray’s face when he finally met and talked to a Mennonite. You could not have measured or bought the kindness and openness of 97 patients. There’s no buying or measuring or summarizing 8 days of intense experience, thoughtful reflection, and sweet, tender moments- 8 days of sincerity and integrity. It was a bittersweet finale for the seniors, a fresh first for the sophomores, and an exciting adventure for all.

We traveled to towns where people had no teason to open their door to teenage gringos who wanted to measure their glucose levels, blood pressure, and vitals, but they did- without hesitation- and we were lucky to talk with them and to begin to ponder how to continue a relationship with their communities. The point is, we (the USA) have a lot to learn from Belize, its residents, its healthcare system (and its food!!). It is many things but ugly is not one of them. Neither is unfriendly. Every single person we met was equally as welcoming and beautiful as the landscape they inhabited. That says a lot about people. In a lot of ways, we become our surroundings; but also, we choose the final product- we choose unearned gratitude, trustworthy affection, boundless grace. We are shaped by them but they don’t determine us, only we do that.

As I look around me at our tired faces, I feel the fullness of the hearts inside. I feel the heat of last night’s bonfire, the final gathering. I hear the laughter of a group that put an insane amount of work into changing the world, and drank sodas together in the downtime. And I know that no matter how delirious some of us may be after a day of traveling and a week of hard work, and no matter how much we are waiting, on the edge of our seats, for the summer ahead, Belize will always be our rose.

Travel to Belize – Day 7

The last full day, Friday, June 15th, is captured by Ella Davis (2021).

The excitement of the week carried us all the way to our last day in Belize and for some their last day of international GHF travel. Today was filled with work, reflection, and bonding mixed with happy memories and an overwhelming feeling of how much we’ll miss this place. The morning began with the health fair, giving us one last opportunity to interact with our community. There were vitals, blood pressure/blood glucose being taken, vaccines being distributed and babies being measured and weighed. I taught nutritional lessons to the women in the waiting area along with the hand-washing curriculum. The moms were very interactive and it was great to see that what we were teaching  would make a difference within their households. While others were hard at work tending to patients, a few of us kept the kids occupied while their mothers waited. We handed out tooth brushing pamphlets for them to color, sat in a small circle and talked about everything from the colors of the Crayons to their school lives. One little five year old boy and I bonded in particular. I taught him how to use hand sanitizer and showed him all of our germs under the glow light. When it was time for everyone to pack up he ran over to me and gave me one of the best hugs of my life and that was when I truly felt that my job was special. After a fun-filled start to the day, our group decided to stop by the Pentecostal schools cultural day before lunch. Walking in, we were greeted by the kids we had taught just days before. But instead of uniforms, they were dressed in traditional Mennonite, Creole, Indian and American outfits and sold food out of each cultures tent. We played, ate and conversed for a while until we reluctantly headed back. Fortunately, our home stay families greeted us with a fantastic last lunch of the trip! After taking a quick but well deserved nap, we headed to the community center and started reflections. I was given the time to think about every awesome event on this trip, and just to think about the impact that we had on so many people’s lives. As we shared our reflections one by one, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I felt sad that we didn’t have more time to give to the people of these communities, and that we didn’t have more time to just be with each other without the temptations of electronics. Nonetheless, our last experience on our 2018 GHF Belize trip consisted of a bonfire, a few chairs and a lot of laughs. We chowed down on the going away cake for Kirsten (who will be missed greatly) sat around the dimly lit fire, just enjoying each other’s company, and playing a few rounds of Mafia. I’m going to bed thinking of the great memories we will all share in many years to come.

Travel to Belize – Day 6

The June 14th post is written by Maddie Brooks, Class of 2021.

Today was incredible day full of learning, fun activities, and final home visits of the trip.  We began our day at 8:30 AM in the Pentecostal School in San Antonio (after a delicious breakfast of French toast from miss Attalia and her husband) to teach our lessons that we have been working on for a while.  Our book, Lola Has Questions, was finally put to use by the group teaching puberty to the 6th-8th grade girls (Madeleine, Kara, Erin, Ingrid, Anaiya, and me).  We had great success with our lessons!

We split the groups into two and had three of the GHFs in each group teaching about the menstrual cycle, periods, female anatomy, and good hygiene.  We also discussed how it is important for girls to help girls and how would should always feel empowered.  Being able to educate these young women especially about their bodies, what as wonderful opportunity to make them feel strong and put them in a safe environment.  We became familiar with one another after sharing a little bit about ourselves, such as what we want to be when we grow up or what we wished we learned in school and even about our family.  After reading the book together, since ever girl received her own copy, we dove into some explanations using posters and labels within the book.

We finished the book and all our discussions we closed with a final activity of reflection.  We broke up into small groups and went outside of the cafeteria and each girls shared what we learned from the lesson using a crumpled piece of paper as a ball to toss.  I was so impressed and surprised at the responses that were given because they were so detailed and thoughtful.  It was amazing how much information the girls retained and I was very excited about this as it was my rose of the day!  We then went back inside so the girls could write anonymous questions for us to answer which was a great opportunity to make things more private.  We hope to use some of these questions in the future for another book!

While some of the girls were teaching the puberty lesson, Ray, Andrew, Ella, and Michela taught several classes on nutrition and exercise.  In the classroom, they showed the 5 main food groups and MY PLATE before going into an engaging activity where students determined which foods were placed into which food groups.  Then, the students were taken outside to the soccer field/recess area to participate in some physical activity which consisted of a fun and competitive relay race with both boys and girls.  It was so much fun to watch the students run and the GHFs interact with them!

At the same time, Leila and James talked with the principal of the Pentecostal School about what the community and school’s needs are and specifically the school’s computers and their lab.  the two installed a new software program onto several of the school’s computers, which could help the school to start teaching a new computer curriculum.  Some students even came in to test the new software and played games on it which make the GHFs very happy to see that it worked!

After a few more nutrition and exercise lessons, we departed from the Pentecostal School to have a long and relaxed lunch.  We reconvened at 2 PM in the community center to begin our final home visits of the trip which were in San Antonio.  Since there was only one community health worker, one group went at a time to different homes to once again measure blood glucose, blood pressure, and vitals such as temperature, pulse, respiration rate, height, weight, and BMI.  As Ray took blood pressure, or Ingrid and James took blood glucose, or I took vitals with Erin and Ella, we would ask our patients a few questions to get to know them and their community better.  We asked them questions about their family and history of lifestyle which gave us more perspective and clarity.  My group of 6 visited about 3 hours in an hour and a half, which totaled about six people.  Differing from some of the other communities we visited, most of the people in San Antonio could communicate  with us in English – although it was very fun to practice our Spanish with them!

After we finished our home visits, we worked on some of the lesson plans for the clinic on Friday, which consist of stations for vitals, blood glucose, blood pressure, infant measurements, educating young mothers, and activities with some of the kids!  We closed with our daily reflection of roses and thorns, and deltas and positives.  My rose for the day was hearing all of the amazing things that the young girls at the Pentecostal School learned from the puberty lesson and the details of those as well as the anonymous question, which shows how attentive they really were.  It was a very exciting day, although my thorn from the day was seeing some people on the home visit who really needed to see a doctor but were unaware and did not feel the urgency, which was really upsetting.  We want for them to get the proper care they need and deserve, which is a very hard thing to do, but is also the reason that we are here.  Hopefully, we will come back with even more knowledge of how we can help.  Overall, everyone had a fantastic day and we are very sad to see the week is almost gone!  Thank you for reading!

Travel to Belize – Day 5

Ingrid Benovitz (2019) reflects on the GHFs final day of home visits in Belize.

This morning, I woke up to the familiar smell of fried bread and the familiar sounds of the roosters.  After a delicious breakfast, I walked to the community center with Kirsten and Anaiya to meet the rest of the group and head out for another set of home visits.  We finally arrive to Santa Familia and I gave a quick motivational speech to hype everyone up for our final morning of home visits.  As Mr. Wetmore reminded us, starting the week strong was the easy part.  The hard part is keeping up the energy and getting better each day, rather than being complacent.  I think it is safe to say that we settled for nothing less than our absolute best!

My group went to three houses and were able to have many meaningful conversations and moments with the members of the community.  I really pushed myself to speak in Spanish and even Ray, the German speaker, tested out a few new phrases!  i’m just hoping he’ll be able to talk to a German Mennonite by the end of the week!  Anyway, this morning of home visits truly was exceptional – with James and Ella at the helm of the needs assessment.  I got to practice taking blood glucose levels all by myself, which was scary at first, but ended up being the most fulfilling experience.  At the last home, we were all welcomed graciously into the house, where the entire family was interested and engaged in our work.  I felt such gratitude for this family and really hope the best for them.

After a lunch break, we all met back at the community center for the afternoon.  Gabby gave us an informative sessions about mosquito-borne illnesses, which prompted Kara and me to quickly sneak outside to apply more bug spray.  Kirsten then gave a session on sex-ed.  Her statistics were very helpful in putting things in perspective and about consent and healthy relationships.  We then had some time to run through the school lessons we will be teaching tomorrow.  This week has been amazing and I go to bed each night wholly excited for what the next day will bring.  Hasta la vista!

Travel to Belize – Day 4

Tuesday’s update is brought to you one of our new Global Health Fellows – Erin Clayton (2021).

This morning at my home stay with Michela, Kara and Gabby (a GPSA fellow), Miss Dorita made us Johnny cakes.  A Johnny cake is a sweet, dense biscuit that is eaten with jam and jellies or even peanut butter.  After this delicious breakfast, we set out for the community center where our transportation picked us up to take us to Los Tambos.

Los Tambos is located about an hour away from San Antonio, where we are staying.  I saw it as a much more rural community with a prevalent farming lifestyle.  All morning we visited homes to take temperature, pulse, respiration rate, height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood glucose.  Although my group (we split into two teams for this activity) only visited three houses, we were able to connect with the patients we visited

with.  At the last house we visited, the Spanish-speaking members of our group had a long conversation about the struggles Los Tambos experiences.  These were mainly related to money, poor education, and lack of access to medicine.  A lot of my group and myself ended up feeling a bit helpless with the problems the community experiences.  By the end of our morning in Los Tambos, we gained a contact with an influential figure there, Kendrick Hernandez.  We plan on contacting him in the future to see how we can help.



After a lunch break, we returned to the community center and spent the afternoon there with different lessons.  First, Kirsten taught us about nutrition, malnutrition, and obesity.  Then, Luis taught us some Spanish phrases that will be useful for our home stay visits.  Lastly, Gabby taught us about oral health and even how to make our own toothpaste!  We spent the last hour before dinner working on our projects for our visit to the school Thursday.  I am part of the Women’s Empowerment group and am very excited to teach the girls.

After dinner at our home stay, the whole group met at the Women’s Co-Op for a fun game of trivia.  The topics ranged from infectious diseases to pop culture and my team (unBelizeable) came out as winners!



Travel to Belize – Day 3

Andrew Thetford (2019) reflects on the GHFs first day of home visits.

The first day of home visits was filled with new experiences and opportunities to learn and develop.  Although we did not have to meet until 8:15 AM, it was an early morning in my household with most of us waking a little before six.  For breakfast we had these delicious fried dough packets, black beans, fresh juice, and some of the best fruit I’ve ever had.  Once we reached Cristo Rey, we split up into our groups and began the home visits.

My group worked well together from the beginning and improved greatly as throughout the morning.  We had a really fluid team dynamic going especially with Kara speaking flawless Spanish coming fresh off her junior year in Spain.  Leaving Cristo Rey, we ran into a bit of a problem when our van got stuck in a ditch!  After a couple of minutes and a lot of pushing, we were able to get going again back on the road to San Antonio.  For lunch my family had an amazing broth with a lot of meat and veggies mixed in.  After a quick nap time, we headed back to the center of town to grab some snacks before our next meeting.  We then listed to a speaker from the Ministry of Health in Belize (Miss Gema) who discussed more about the healthcare system in Belize.

Afterwards, we went to the Women’s Co-Op of San Antonio.  There, we listened to an informative history lesson about cooking and pottery in Mayan times, then actually practiced this by cooking corn tortillas from scratch and making clay bowls.

We finished the day with insightful reflection and discussion about the events of the day.  Finally, we retired back to our home stays where Ray, James, Mr. Wetmore and I were treated to a delicious meal of sandwiches and this incredibly good fruit called soursop.  We all retired fairly early to prepare ourselves for the following day.

Travel to Belize – Day 2

James Hood (2019) shares the events from Sunday, June 10th in Belize with Global Public Service Academy.

Our first full day in Belize was a good one.  Greeted by a plethora of sounds from roosters to cars to dogs barking, we awoke to a delicious breakfast and cool temperatures.  We soon departed for the Mayan ruin of Xunantunich located near the border between Belize and Guatemala.  Thanks to the extensive knowledge and wisdom of James, our tour guide and bus driver who is also a respected figure in the community, we totally immersed ourselves in the awe-inspiring and beautiful ruins.  We saw the ancient Mayan ball courts, bedrooms of nobles, and the sites of human sacrifice and other aspects of the ruins.  After experiencing Xunantunich, we returned to the Belizean festivities celebrating their Mayan heritage on a holiday fortunately coinciding with our visit.  We watched the conclusion of an arduous 20-mile bike race, and intense Mayan ball game, and a greased pig chase while a few of us chowed down on local dishes in nearby tents.  In preparation of the work ahead of us, we then refined our skills needed for tomorrow’s home visits to measure health indicators such as BMI, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.  We concluded the day by eating a tasty meal generously provided by our host mother, Ms. Selma, and went to bed early in anticipation of tomorrow.


Summer Travel to Belize – Day 1

Rising senior, Madeleine Munn (2019), reflects on her day of travel to Belize!

I am writing to you all from Belize- we are safe, sound, and exhausted.  We all gathered at the Norfolk airport a 5:00 this morning, yet after two seamless flights, a layover in Atlanta, customs questions, and fearless leadership by our leader of the day- James B. Hood (2019)- we landed in Belize City before noon.

We then went from plane to car, met our GPSA team leaders, Gabi and Kirsten, and drove west toward San Antonio. On the way we stopped for lunch with watermelon or lime juice (I chose lime. No regrets). We got back in the car after lunch and rode the rest of the way. Once we got to San Antonio we met our honesty families and got our belongings settled. Side note: how amazing is it that these families are opening up their homes to total strangers for a week? It’s unbelievable and we are lucky beyond measure. We gathered together as a group in the community  center with Gabi, Kirsten, and our coordinator Andrea. These GPSA staff members went over rules, safety regulations, and behavioral expectations. They taught us lessons about patient care, ethics, conduct in the field, handwashing, plus some useful Spanish phrases we will need. Informative, helpful, and we truly saw all of our preparation come full circle. We ended with our reflection time- roses and thorns, positives and delta’s for the group, and positives and delta’s for James as our leader of the day. We returned to our homestays for dinner and early bedtime. Ella, Ms. Nas,  and I had a delicious dinner fawning over an adorable baby- what more do you need? We are drinking lots of water and loving where we are.