Photos: PT students, faculty, and volunteers with church hosts; Flores family with addition to their home; children and PT students bond by playing games
“It’s an experience that reminds us that the Lord has given us talents to use to serve others,” said Hardin-Simmons University professor of physical therapy and department head, Dr. Janelle O’Connell.
Students, volunteers, and professors recently returned from a mission trip to the colonia of Los Palmas in Penitas, Texas. This is the 11th year HSU students studying for a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree have participated in a trip to serve others with the skills they are learning. O’Connell said the week truly reflects the mission of HSU as it provides students with an “education enlightened by faith.”
Composed of Drs. Dennis and Janelle O’Connell, professors of physical therapy; Dr. Marsha Rutland, associate professor of physical therapy; Dr. Jacob Brewer, assistant professor of physical therapy; 19 students from the DPT classes of 2013 and 2014; and two volunteers, the group taught Bible study and worked on three major community construction projects. They also worked with patients who can benefit from what students learn in their course work.
PT students honed the skills they have been learning in class as they conducted physical therapy evaluations and treatments for patients with musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. Students also conducted health promotion classes, like core strengthening, and Thera-band exercises.
Rutland said 82 people were served through physical therapy screenings conducted by the students. “We referred one person to a physician who had developed difficulty walking and transferring into a car, which was getting more difficult with each passing week. In one of the screenings, we evaluated a small child of 16 months who was not walking yet and referred the parents to a physician to help secure a local physical therapist to assist with developmental movement patterns.”
In the afternoons, HSU students acted out Bible stories at the community center for the children of the colonia, lead them in art activities, and played games. Rutland says about 140 kids came to learn about the Bible as students portrayed the stories of David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, and taught the salvation story through making beaded bracelets.
O’Connell said games like tug of war, water balloon battles, t-ball, soccer, and tag united the students and children. “And even though we did not speak the same language, barriers were brought down with hugs and smiles.”
Three teams of HSU students provided materials through earlier fundraising efforts. While one team worked to repaired doors and windows of the community center, and add a picture and logo above the entry door welcoming visitors, another team converted a porch into a kitchen for a needy family by adding walls, sheet rock, shingles, and a door to the home. Meanwhile, another group added a bedroom and bathroom to a home so a 9-year-old boy could have a place to sleep separate from his two younger sisters. The team assembled the walls, put up rafters and trusses, added siding and windows to the home, and worked on the roof.
O’Connell said she appreciates the servant hearts of the students. “All walk away having honed some PT skills, and most have learned something about construction they never knew.” Rutland added that one of the PT students, Jessica Johnson, now plans to do her clinical study overseas and go into mission work.
“Although we give a lot of love and sweat to those we serve, our hearts are opened, and we feel like we have taken away more than we have given,” said O’Connell.
Dr. Dennis O’Connell expresses it this way, “Jesus spent his last three years going from town to town and house to house. We felt a little like his disciples as we ministered to the needs of these fiscally poor people as they granted us access to their homes. We did what we could do to the best of our abilities. I know we saw Jesus in those we served. I hope they saw Him in us.”