Students travel to Guatemala to provide medical care to those in need

Topic: Student Affairs

April 10, 2008

It's easy for Americans to take the treatment of common ailments for granted. But as a group of Ball State students learned over spring break, not everyone in the world has such easy access to medical attention.

A group of 14 students and seven medical professionals traveled to Guatemala in March as a part of a medical mission trip with the university's chapter of the Timmy Foundation. The group's initial goal was to see 80 patients per day during their four-day stay at the clinics - a goal well surpassed, as the students saw 488 patients while there.

"The minute we arrived to our clinic sites, which were buildings in the mountain villages where no person had access to medical care, there was already a line to the street of people wanting to be seen by a doctor," said Jennifer Bowers, a senior who is president of Ball State's Timmy Foundation. "Our overall goal was to be flexible. We didn't know what our site would look like, or where we'd have to set up from day to day. One day, we were literally on the side of a street giving out vitamins and anti-parasite medicine."

In February, Ball State's Timmy Foundation chapter held a donation drive, collecting over-the-counter medicines and hygiene supplies such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, vitamins, sunscreen and hand sanitizer, which were distributed to patients at the clinic sites.

"For some, this is their first experience receiving any sort of medical attention, and we try to treat their top issues of the day," Bowers said. "Patients' ailments are often common things we don't think about here.Giving them vitamins, ibuprofen or antibiotics can truly change their quality of life, and they are so grateful for that."

Biology professor Clare Chatot, faculty adviser for the local Timmy Foundation Chapter, said students who attend these mission trips find a greater appreciation for others' needs.

"I have had students return and tell me that this trip has changed they way they look at life," Chatot said. "It can truly be an eye-opening experience for them and effect dramatic change in the way they view others as well as their own lives and values."

Bowers agreed.

"It is always an eye-opening experience for first time travelers, but I think everyone always walks away with an improved perspective on the world we live in versus what other people live with on a daily basis," she said. "This has been my second trip with the Timmy Foundation, and even as a returning traveler, there was so much to learn about the culture and way of life in Guatemala."

The Timmy Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Indianapolis founded by Dr. Chuck Dietzen, originally of Kokomo, Ind. It has chapters on college campuses throughout the country, with the goal of providing improved health care for needy children in the U.S. and third-world countries.

For more information about the Timmy Foundation, contact Chatot at 765-285-8827 or e-mail timmy@bsu.edu.

By Jennifer Strempka

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