May 8, 2015 — For nearly two decades, Wheeling Jesuit University’s (WJU) physical therapy (PT) students have participated in an annual service-learning course that provides rehabilitative services to thousands of people in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Students and faculty from WJU’s PT program travel to the cities and surrounding pueblos of Merida, Izamal and Valladolid in the Yucatan to work with a number of community partners. This spring, 10 graduate students provided free PT services under the guidance of licensed clinicians from both the United States and Mexico.
“The trip to Merida, Mexico, was an incredible experience and made me realize what it is like to be engulfed in another culture,” said PT student Clayton Kubrick. “Some of my most cherished memories were educating students, working with the compassionate patients and being able to live in a culture much different from ours.”
After they returned to Wheeling, students reported that they are eager to get back to Mexico and further enhance their experience by helping even more people in need of physical therapy. "This trip to Mexico was a heavy dose of perspective,” said Amanda Althouse, another PT student. “There are so many people in the world who appreciate our help and even though I couldn't speak their language, compassion is a universal language that is easily understood."
Jesuit Father William Rickle, WJU’s senior vice president for mission and ministry, accompanied the students on the trip for the second straight year. He said the contemplative spirit of the trip made an impression on him during his week with the residents and students.
“Each day begins with the group gathered together for a reading of a reflective text,” Fr. Rickle said. “The leadership team understands the importance of helping the students reflect on their experience [with] caregivers, companions, teachers and the learners. I was struck by the transparency of both faculty and students in their reflections and observations of their own reactions to situations they encountered during the day.”