A group of six people stand in front of a wooden structure. Five of them are wearing Humber College t-shirts.

Humber College students recently travelled to Guatemala on a pair of faculty-led trips to apply skills from their areas of study while learning in collaboration with local communities.

Roxana Zuleta is an Early Childhood Education (ECE) professor at Humber and Francisca Burg-Feret is a professor in the Bachelor of Science – Nursing program at the College. They both brought students to Guatemala but for different reasons.

Burg-Feret has organized seven medical service trips to the country since 2015. This year, they brought 11 students from a variety of programs including Nursing, Paramedic and Pharmacy Technician as well as a larger team that included three registered nurses, a nurse practitioner, a doctor and pharmacist.

Working with community partners and Guatemala health care workers who had conducted needs assessments, the group worked in communities that are under resourced in terms of health care.

A person places a thermometer in another person’s mouth.

They provided screening and primary health care that included instruction on dental hygiene, first aid procedures, the administration of medication and more. In the host community, there’s the Valle de Los Angeles boarding school, which is home to just shy of 200 children. Many of them have suffered physical and sexual abuse. The Humber team screens these students and conducts follow ups to ensure they see a doctor or specialist as needed.  

The group also provides services at a clinic held at a church in the Guatemala City dump, a place where many people live including children. Burg-Feret said its inhabitants don’t have regular access to doctors or medication.  

They also travelled to the Indigenous community of Moyuta to offer a two-day clinic.

Overall, the students saw 443 clients, the majority of whom were women, throughout their trip. They made more than 200 referrals and wrote and filled more than 600 prescriptions. The group brought 20 hockey bags filled with medications and medical supplies with them to be donated.

Several standing in front of an ambulance. One is wearing a Humber College sweater.

The trip is a beneficial experience for the students, said Burg-Feret, as they take skills learned in the classroom and put them into practice in the real world. It frequently leaves a lasting impression on the students.

“Students will often refer to ‘before Guatemala’ and ‘after Guatemala’ and the whole experience certainly helps them to become career ready,” said Burg-Feret.

Many of the students have gone on to do other medical service trips after the experience.  

Zuleta, meanwhile, travelled to the village of La Vuelta Grande near the city of Antigua in Guatemala. There’s a school in La Vuelta Grande for children aged three to 14 and Zuleta brought four ECE students with her to work with the children and their families for five days.  

Before their trip to Guatemala, the students participated in cultural awareness training so they could deliver their teaching program while respecting the Mayan cultural practices.

The students prepared a learning experience plan for the Fundación Corazones Libres (FUNCOLI), an organization that advocates for the Indigenous Mayan communities. The Humber group stayed at FUNCOLl's on-site housing and participated in multiple teaching activities that allowed the students to connect their experience with the program knowledge they gained at Humber.  

They brought a play-based learning approach with a focus on STEM that respected the Indigenous culture while enhancing the overall development of the children and promoting school readiness in the community.  

They also brought seven suitcases full of educational and school supplies, 28 literacy kits and 11 laptops to donate. They also raised funds for medicine including those to treat gastrointestinal issues and the flu.

Beyond the serious work the group undertook there was also time to explore the region, which Zuleta described as beautiful. A variety of cultural components were included to allow Humber students to enhance their intercultural skills and understanding by exploring and appreciating Guatemala's diversity.  

Six people take a selfie with a picturesque mountainous area behind them in the background.

Zuleta noted that Program Support Officer Katheline Aguilar played a key role in ensuring the trip happened by overseeing the trip administration. Aguilar also helped with translation.

These opportunities were partially funded by Global Skills Opportunity, the Government of Canada’s Outbound Student Mobility Program.