Friday, September 8, 2017

SLU PT Student Enjoys Immersive Experience on Service Trip in Belize

Service Trip Spotlight - Seine Bight, Belize
by Brea Masching (DPT Class of 2019)

This summer, I had the privilege of immersing myself in the culture, friendships, and hospitality of Seine Bight, Belize. I was lucky enough to be invited by Mary Jo Davenport, PhD, PT  to join her on a mission trip where we served the people of Seine Bight in a variety of ways. We spent our time in the mornings teaching the local children in Vacation Bible School where we shared stories, sang songs, and danced like nobody was watching. We then spent the afternoon hours performing home health visits where we were welcomed into the homes of the villagers, a great privilege in Garifuna culture.
Every aspect of this mission trip was incredibly wonderful and impactful, full of cheerful laughter and meaningful dialogue. I could go on and on about my fondest memories, but I’d like to focus on the home health visits and what our health care team was able to accomplish during our short time abroad.
The people of Seine Bight are living below the poverty line in a third world country, and have little to no access to health care. They have the opportunity to take about a two hour bus ride to a neighboring town whenever pop-up clinics are running, but that requires money and the ability to travel, two things many villagers simply don’t have. Many patients were home-bound because their health did not allow them the ability to descend their home’s stairs, since every home in Seine Bight is raised on stilts to protect them from rising waters. That being said, the need for medical care in Seine Bight is great but the access is essentially non-existent.
This mission trip has been organized by the beloved Miss Sue Dorn for over 16 years through a partnership between St. John Church and the Belize Mission Society, and she helps send wave after wave of health care teams to Seine Bight. Although short in duration, these trips can truly change the lives of the patients we see by providing necessary medication, assistive devices, education, and emotional support. The health care teams take a holistic approach in treating these patients by focusing the treatment on the developmental, physical, and spiritual needs of the villagers. This summer, a nurse was part of the health care team, and we did our best to converge our experience, knowledge, and ideas to best treat our patients.
Our sessions would include monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as educating patients on the importance of their medication and diet. We changed dressings, provided ointment, and cleaned wounds to the best of our ability. We assisted many patients in exercise programs to continue their rehabilitation started by health care teams before us. We even had the opportunity to deliver a donated wheelchair to a sweet girl with cerebral palsy, which was just an incredibly heartwarming experience!
Dr. Mary Jo Davenport and myself implemented an infant massage program, where we taught the mothers of the village the importance of infant massage as well as how to properly perform it. It was a wonderful bonding experience between ourselves, the mothers, and their young children that I hope to have the opportunity to experience again.
I am beyond grateful for this experience, and a piece of my heart remains with the people in Seine Bight. I was able to learn from the health care team regarding physical therapy and general patient care, but in reality I learned so much more than that. I learned all about the Garifuna culture, the people I met, the village I served, and I even learned a lot about myself. It was such a special experience, and I’d like to take this moment to advise you, if you’re even slightly considering joining a mission trip or attending a clinical experience abroad, to go for it! It is a life-changing and eye-opening experience that you simply shouldn’t pass up if given the chance.
For more information regarding the mission trip to Seine Bight, you can visit:

Belize Mission Society

St. John’s Church

This is one of a series of posts by the Saint Louis University Program in Physical Therapy students who have participated in service trips. Service is an integral part of the Saint Louis University experience. SLU  is currently #4 on Washington Monthly’s list of universities who participate most in community service. To learn more about service at SLU, visit the Center for Service and Community Engagement website at

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