Nineteen doctoral students at Hardin-Simmons University—together with professors and volunteers from the school—offered physical therapy screenings for 82 people and met other needs in a South Texas colonia.
The mission team served in Los Palmas, an unincorporated community near Penitas, about 15 miles west of McAllen. It marked the 11th year students in the doctor of physical therapy program at HSU have participated in a trip where they served others with the skills they learned in the classroom.
“It’s an experience that reminds us that the Lord has given us talents to use to serve others,” said Janelle O’Connell, professor and head of the physical therapy department at HSU. The mission trip provides students an “education enlightened by faith,” she added.
Students conducted physical therapy evaluations and treatments for patients with musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, as well as leading exercise classes.
“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,” said Marsha Rutland, associate professor of physical therapy.
“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, led art activities and played games with about 140 children from the colonia at a community center.
Games like tug of war, water balloon battles, T-ball, soccer and tag united the students and children, O’Connell said. “And even though we did not speak the same language, barriers were brought down with hugs and smiles.”
Several HSU teams worked on projects throughout the week. While one group repaired doors and windows of the community center, another team converted a porch into a kitchen for a needy family. 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.
All of the students honed physical therapy skills, “and most have learned something about construction they never knew,” O’Connell said.
“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,” she said.