ADU Mission Trip Brings Healing and Hope to Costa Rica

News Lisa Marie Esser

From August 11th – 19th, 2018, a group of students, staff, and faculty from ADU traveled to Tamarindo in Costa Rico on a mission trip to spread the healing ministry of Christ through medical service, teaching, facility maintenance, and giving their time and compassion to a population in need.

ADU students in Costa Rica

They landed in San Jose, Costa Rica and then made a five-hour drive to the small town of Tamarindo. The mission workers visited several sites to give aid – an orphanage, an elementary school, and the only government clinic in the province – in addition to several private, remote homes of residents that could not transport themselves to the clinic. The team also provided donations they had collected back at ADU, ranging from medical supplies to school supplies, as well as toys and clothing.

ADU students painting

Members of Healing Touch Missions have made this trip yearly for over 10 years, expanding their outreach and services as more volunteers have joined each year. These trips bring hope and healing to an underserved population while lending to students’ experiential learning, global community service, and spiritual transformation. It offers the chance to experience circumstances far removed from what they are used to at home, where necessities like safe housing, food, and access to health care are expectations rather than privileges.

Costa Rica housing

A student in ADU’s DPT program, Juan Madrid, SPT, recalled his experience encountering this disparity as one of the journeying missioners, “[It] was the single most impactful experience of my life. I saw a different side of life. A side that we all know about, but most of us do not pay any attention to. We are too busy with our daily routine and our ‘first-world’ problems.

The amount of suffering and poverty present in this part of the world is indescribable. There were many moments that left me speechless during our home visits, and I witnessed tremendous sacrifice from family members going to extreme measures to take care of their loved ones. I learned to appreciate every single moment, and everything that God gives me is a new blessing. The toughest part was leaving knowing I had so much more to give, but in the future, I am committed to serving this part of the world and many other countries in need.”

ADU students in Costa Rica

The impact of this trip on the volunteers and the communities they served can be hard to capture through a second-hand retelling. Fortunately, Jadiel Alfonso, an ADU employee, joined the trip to contribute his talent of photo journalism, and Dr. Elizabeth, Clark, Associate Professor of DPT, contributed a personal description of the events in each photo. Her words and his images tell the story best.

ADU student working with patient.

“This woman had traveled over 30 minutes to the clinic for a follow up MD appointment, and our need to provide care to other clients that morning did not permit her to fit on our schedule – so we travelled to her home to see her. She had described frequent falls. Our thorough assessment did not reveal any acute medical issues contributing to her falls, and the opportunity to be in “her element” was extremely beneficial. We ended up fabricating a cane from a sturdy stick for her to use at home, as well as provided her a customized home exercise program for general strengthening and balance conditioning. She was pleased – to say the least – and the student interactions in her environment contributed to on-the-spot problem solving and innovation in her home setting.”

ADU faculty and students providing care.

“This client came to see us in the clinic with a host of ailments. He was in his 90s, reported foot pain, neck/shoulder pain, and frequent falls. The opportunity for faculty to demonstrate examination/evaluation flow to students was integral in learning and allowed us to collaborate as a team to enhance the comprehensive nature of the evaluation. The students then provided this man hands on manual therapy, a customized home exercise program, and recommendations on cane use/fit to decrease his incidence of falls, and address all of his needs.”

ADU students in Costa Rica

“This gentleman was seen in his home, as he and his wife had no ability to travel over 30 minutes (in jungle terrain/wild dirt roads) to get to the clinic. The physician at the clinic was instrumental in informing us of these clients’ needs so we could see them in their homes. This man lived with his wife (both in their 90s) and had had a stroke and was having some falls. We were able to provide him an exercise program to maximize his strength and activities to promote safety/decrease his fall risk. The students were SO engaged in every home visit and immersed themselves in what the individual NEEDED and set up the home programs accordingly. The experiential learning of these home visits enhanced their education immensely – and just cannot occur in the classroom.”

ADU students providing care.

“This 2-year-old boy had a rare Neurologic Condition called West Syndrome. He was prone to seizures, had a severe developmental delay, and had JUST (the day prior) received a wheelchair for home use. Our team was able to provide adjustments for fit to the wheelchair, provide the family education on positioning (including tummy time), as well as promote his movement and range of motion activities for his ongoing success. The students would NEVER see this type of client in the clinic – due the rarity of the diagnosis – and could provide hands-on, compassionate care for this family – that otherwise could not access/afford physical therapy.”

ADU students with child patient.
ADU students with child patient.

This young man had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He lived with his mom who was his primary/sole caretaker. He was well known to the clinic and had been seen by OT on a previous mission trip. We were able to provide the individual with crutches and crutch training to promote his independence in ambulation and provide the mom education regarding safety/body mechanics for her ongoing care of her son. Our home exercise program recommendations included updating an already comprehensive program but afforded the mom the reinforcement and confidence that she WAS doing all she could. We were able to see this boy BOTH at the clinic and at his home to better understand his needs and provide him wholistic care.”

More than one staff member recalled how Dr. Clark gave the shoes off her feet to a patient who needed more supportive footwear. Students took off their shoe laces and custom insoles to give to those who were in need. And the team of volunteers shared their own stories of how they were as impacted and changed by their patients as their patients were by them.

ADU students in Costa Rica.

ADU’s mission trips are an invaluable opportunity to extend Christ’s healing values and practice healthcare as ministry. This was a true representation of compassionate, wholistic care. If you’re inspired to join Healing Touch Missions to serve on a future mission trip, visit their website to find out more information: Healing Touch Missions.

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