Dacula, GA | Human and Organizational Development, Health and Human Services | 2017
Britt Hatcher is a senior in Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. He is from Dacula, GA. Britt is an HOD- HHS major and will be attending medical school next year. His Nichols Fund Project involves participating in an internship with Primeros Pasos, a rural health clinic in southwestern Guatemala. While there, he will be working with the organization as a volunteer with their clinic and rural health initiatives, as well as conducting research and contributing to strategic business planning, organizational development, and grant writing for Primeros Pasos.
Blog Post One:
I arrived in Guatemala on May 16th, a short four days after I graduated! When I left the US, there were so many things on my mind – How am I going to pay for medical school? Where am I even going to live? How will I find roommates? My very first night as I laid in bed in the hotel room on a quiet Guatemalan street, I realized that the only thing on my mind was myself. I was so caught up in my own problems and desires that I had already forgotten how much of an incredible opportunity I’d been given!
I started to ask myself this instead: What is the Lord going to teach me during my time here? How can I challenge myself to love and serve the people around me – including those I’m working with and for? How can I use this blessing to learn how to be a more capable leader and a more humble servant?
Already, my time in the country has been incredibly marking. On a personal level, I have experienced an enormous amount of growth through the demands of increased independence and the need for constant awareness that I’m in a different culture. I’ve expanded my abilities in Spanish, learned about cultural dynamics that affect family structures and customs, and started working with an organization that is making a difference in rural community health here in Xela. I’ve learned about the challenges facing healthcare providers in the country, and heard story after story about lives affected by a lack of access to quality healthcare. For example, I heard a mother tell the story of an exciting and long-awaited pregnancy that ended in tragedy when a failure to catch a breach birth ended in the loss of the child.
I want to make sure I do this country justice, though. It’s easy to come into a “third-world” country and look only for the bad, the poor, the sick, etc. The reality is that Guatemala and its people are beautiful. It’s an amazing country with nature like I’ve never seen before. The people are warm, welcoming, and polite. They exhibit more grit, entrepreneurship, and determination than I feel like I possess on a daily basis. Even with little money compared to what I’m accustomed to, my host family has constantly demonstrated generosity that blows me away, opening up their home to women and families in need. Just this last week, my host mom spent two days with a woman who needed support during her chemo treatment and then the next three days hosting and consoling a woman whose eldest son – the breadwinner of the house – had a terrible motorcycle accident.
Sure, Guatemala can feel poor at times. Trash lines the sidewalk on many busy streets. A single dollar can buy almost a full meal. Sometimes it feels dangerous, like when street dogs snarl, bark, and chase me with an unexpected ferocity. But for the most part, I have absolutely loved my time in this country. It’s reminded me how to enjoy walking. It’s reminded me that people are people, no matter how rich or poor. It’s taught me how to learn about and appreciate other people’s culture, and it’s taught me a little bit about the challenging but rewarding world of international NGOs.
Final Blog Post:
It’s been a long summer in Guatemala, and after a long time there I’m glad to finally be back in the states. When I look back on my time, a few things stand out to me.
Out of all the experiences I had in Guatemala, the first thing that stands out to me is all of the relationships. I met people and developed true friendships with people from all over the world, not just Guatemala. One of our best friends from the summer was a girl named Bethan from England, and at the age of 26 she inspired me to realize what a big difference a group of people could make if they all join together. She and a group of five friends jointly manage an organization that provides care for orphans in Tanzania, and they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars every year with nothing more than their college degrees and their passion. The next thing that stands out to me is how lucky I am to be dating my girlfriend. After this summer we are both fully confident that we’re heading towards marriage, and seeing her dedication and enthusiasm and compassion and integrity this summer was a constant inspiration to me. It reminded me that relationships work really well when two people bring out the best in each other and know how to encourage each other to only settle for the very best they’re capable of.
Next, this summer taught me a lot about learning how to place value in things that truly matter. I realized I get so caught up in stuff and cars and money sometimes, but this summer has reminded me that the things that matter most are people and the kingdom of God. I hope that the mindfulness, meditation, and reflection strategies I worked on this summer will carry over into my medical school journey and allow me to stay focused throughout the struggles on a worldview that prioritizes people and souls over stuff.
Finally, this summer was a good reminder that no one person can save the world. There was so much work left to do in Guatemala- so much more than one organization could ever to approach on their own. It was a great reminder that places like Vanderbilt are awesome because they are constantly pouring into more and more people and that the effect of that type of legacy multiplies every generation. This summer made me want to place a greater emphasis in mentorship and training future generations in my medical career then I had initially intended.
Overall, I think I’m going to miss the landscape and the more relaxed lifestyle the most. Everywhere in Guatemala is absolutely gorgeous – there are volcanoes and forests and waterfalls and natural springs all around the countryside. The food was great, but I got food poisoning one too many times to really miss it. I will miss my host family, and I will miss showing up to clinic every week and being able to see the direct impact in communities that Primeros Pasos is able to have.