Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is one of the beautiful compensations in this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Each year, occupational therapy students at Loma Linda University are both a blessing and blessed by mission service. Three of our students (now graduates or soon to be graduates), Erica, Cady, and Elise, share their experiences.
Green, smokey, comforting, and full of life was my first impression of this Central American country. This being my first time on a mission trip and my first time out of the United States, I didn’t know what to expect. Reading the devotionals prior to the trip as well as thinking about how best to utilize my occupational therapy skills, really prepared my heart, mind, and emotions. The trouble to get our medical equipment on the first plane, the long layover, and the bumpy ride through the mountains of Honduras, were no match for the smiling faces and happy voices that greeted us as we walked out of the bus and into the darkness of the forest. “Bienvenidos” was written on the wall of our living quarters and is now engraved in my memory forever.
Each day provided me with a new experience, a new lesson, and a new way of thinking about the world. The first morning I was there, I had the opportunity to help out in the casita, getting the younger children washed, dressed and fed. I developed a sense of respect and admiration for the workers who do this every morning. They wake up at five in the morning and tend to about twenty children. They use buckets to wash them and one sink. To the privileged eye, they had every right to complain and be bitter about their situation; they did the exact opposite. In the ten days I was there, I’ve never seen such a grateful and positive group of people.
The trip was a wonderful mix of service and leisure fun. Zip lining over a waterfall and then walking through the waterfall is an experience of a lifetime! When we went to Punta Sal and stayed on the beach, I felt like an islander. We spear fished, ate coconut and fresh bananas from the trees…we even made baleadas in the outside kitchen! Just those experiences alone, surpassed the expense and expectations of the trip.
As a professional, being surrounded by different disciplines not only helped me develop in my own profession, but it also educated me on what they do as well as how we could collaborate to provide the best care for those seeking our services. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with on this trip nor could I stop the new friendships that were unfolding. We ate together, joked together, walked a tremendous amount of miles together, and laughed together. Most importantly, we served together and because of that we came back to the United States, changed.
I could go on and on about the children, families and leaders who affected my life as well as the ones I affected, but then I’d have to write a book. Overall, I am not the same person I was prior to this trip. I saw God in a different light while I was there, and I am glad. I personally believe that if you really want to know Jesus, then serve his people. One of my main reasons for going to Loma Linda was so that I could be a part of a SIMS trip. I now feel that as I go out into the world and practice my craft, I will serve people in a more humbling and honorable way, because of this experience in Honduras. I can’t wait to see where God takes me next!
– Erica V.J. Herrera
LLU MOT Class of 2014
To further my clinical reasoning skills, leadership skills, and cultural competency skills, I decided to spend my summer vacation engaging in an international service learning (ISL) trip to Thailand. I spent 3 weeks at the Home of Charity, a center for hill tribe children with physical disabilities providing occupational therapy services. Through my ISL experience, I learned so much about the profession of occupational therapy, the importance of taking client’s culture into consideration and the importance of implementing therapeutic use of self to facilitate optimal therapeutic outcomes. The children at the Home of Charity taught me the importance of living simply, living in the moment, and living life to the fullest; concepts so fundamental to the profession of occupational therapy. These children were the most genuine and beautiful humans beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and they will always hold a special place in my heart.
LLU MOT Class of 2014
The mission trip to Belize was a wonderful and invaluable experience. I am so happy that I was able to participate. I learned so much from the trip and learned to have a greater appreciation for the things that I have been blessed with. Some of the highlights of the trip are that we helped to build a wall for the hospital, took stuff to kids at an orphanage, visited various places and met students in various LLU programs who I still communicate with today.
LLU MOT Class of 2015