When Clarkfield physical therapist Wayne Hennen was offered the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to volunteer his time there, he lept at the chance. The trip was sponsored by by his employer, Big Stone Therapies, which is based out of Ortonville. Big Stone Therapies has sponsored the bi-annual trip for 14 years. Hennen also invited his daughter, Isabelle, to come along, hoping that she would benefit from the opportunity to help others.
During their week long stay, the volunteers would work with locals and help treat their mobility problems. Hennen and the team brought with them three pediatric wheelchairs, one standing frame, six walkers, and two pair of forearm crutches. The group also brought along donated clothing to give to the communities they visited visited.
Arriving in Guatemala was quite the culture shock. Like many developing countries, the water was unsafe to drink and volunteers had to be cautious about certain foods. Other than the bare essentials (beds, fans, and electricity), the team had to make do with few luxuries.
Hennen observed that “people seemed to have a lot more time for other people and the pace was a lot slower when you talked to people. Makes me think that we chase after a lot of ‘stuff’ here that doesn’t really make us happy.”
In spite of this, Hennen was struck by the exceptional beauty of Guatemala, particularly the lush green forests and towering volcanoes that surrounded the city. The food and coffee was also delicious, and Hennen sheepishly admitted that he “added plenty of hot sauce to most everything at breakfast and supper.”
During their stay, Hennen and the rest of the team would drive out to one of the remote villages surrounding the town of San Lucas Toliman. The 21 university students who accompanied them on their trip would split into four teams who would then start working with the local villagers. Each team was led by a medical organizer from the area…