Nearly one year ago, fifteen Texas Woman’s University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy students decided to reignite the Physical Therapy Global Access Project (PTGAP) for a cause we couldn’t help but to believe in. After all of our hard work and successes in fundraising enough money for all of us to go, it was fair to say that none of us knew that we were about to step into what felt like a completely new world. We traveled from the flatlands of Texas to the endless mountainous region of Guatemala to provide pro-bono services to those in need in the state of Zacapa, alongside a local charitable organization known as Hearts in Motion or Corazones en Movimiento. Along for the ride were some well experienced Physical Therapists that had a wealth of knowledge to offer to this community, as well as us students that attended the service trip. Almost immediately entering the country, I had felt such a breath of fresh air as I was taking in the rich culture and environment. Once we had finally reached our lodging for the week, the next day was the beginning of life-changing moments for many of us. The way that I have been describing it to my family and friends while maintaining appropriate confidentiality is that we had seen some of the most extreme patient cases that were needing to be managed in the most extreme situations. There were many of us that became emotional as we had witnessed cases that some may consider “hopeless” for the first time. But as we have learned in school, there are times where you have to just be flexible and make the most out of whatever situation is thrown at you, and that’s what we did. However, this service trip was not just a constant trigger of sad emotions, there were plenty of heartwarming moments as well. Some of my favorite moments were not necessarily even with the patients. There were plenty of times where I had a blast playing soccer with the local children. Sports has been a big part of my life and I must say it’s incredible how sports can bring us together as people. Even if we don’t come from the same place, speak the same language, etc., we can communicate and connect in such a unique way. Without a doubt, I can say that this service trip has made me a better clinician, and has developed my self-confidence in being able to handle any patient case that is thrown my way in the United States. From the smiling faces that we saw from just about everyone we encountered, it was evident that the beautiful people of this country were grateful for the work we were doing, and it made it worth every hour put into this project. I encourage everyone to use their God-given abilities to do a service like this at least once in their lifetime because without a doubt it is the most humbling and rewarding experience I’ve had and probably will ever have if I never get the chance to do something like this again.
Joseph Rayner IV, SPT
Student Physical Therapy Association: President
Texas Women’s University-Houston