Monday, July 9, 2012

An Update from Belize...

 The following article is a reflection from Carol Beckel, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education for the Program in Physical Therapy. Carol is currently at Hillside Health Care in Belize.


As I landed in Belize for my 5th trip, I reflected on the “ghosts” from my past trips. So many things do not change in Belize between my trips. At the same time, it seems that changes occur quickly leaving me with more and more memories. My ghosts from Belize are all of those individuals I am blessed to meet each year.

A photo of Hillside, taken from their website at
By all accounts, I am a “short-timer” at Hillside. Although, it could be argued that I am now a “long-term short-timer” given my return four years in a row. I found that on this trip, people are asking me questions like “Did you know…?”, “How has the clinic changed?”, and “What’s different about the program?” In most places, a four year history isn’t that significant, but it can be at Hillside. This place attracts three types of terms: students and short term volunteers who typically come and go within a month or less; long term medical staff and volunteers who commit to at least a year; and the Belizean staff.

            The short term volunteers add a constant whirl of new energy and a fair dose of headaches all at the same time. I can only imagine how many times the long term volunteers and Belizean staff members field the same questions, observe the same struggles, and celebrate the same improvements month after month. Each student and volunteer makes some type of impression on Hillside, for better or worse, and the clinic keeps moving forward.

A photo at Hillside, taken from their website at

The long term medical staff and volunteers create changes that are visible every time I return. Outreach to a new part of the district, updates to the student program, and even new equipment. These are the individuals who help to ensure that the care provided to Belizeans continues on smoothly despite the whirlwind of changing short term students and volunteers.
A photo at Hillside, taken from their website at

  Finally, the true heart of Hillside is the Belizean staff. Yes, there are ghosts from this group too as like anywhere, no job is forever. But this is the group I most enjoy seeing again each year. They are the touchstones of this place. I’m not sure if I would feel as comfortable returning each year if I didn’t know these individuals were here to keep everything moving along and connected to the needs of their neighbors.

            There are many ghosts of Hillsides as folks from around the world move in and move out as quickly as storms move over the sea and into Punta Gorda. It is that dynamic structure that makes Hillside a living organism. Each time I arrive, I smile when I first glimpse the clinic campus that truly rests on the side of a hill. And all the memories of those ghosts from past trips come flooding back only making my smile broader. I become anxious to meet the next group that will become the ghosts of my future memories.


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