Title

Making a Difference, Making Connections: Perspectives of College Faculty and Practitioners Leading a Service Experience Abroad

Author

Wanda Berg

Date of Award

8-1-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching & Learning

Abstract

The Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados or the GOD'S CHILD Project, is a service organization founded in 1991 by a North Dakota native to help Guatemalan children who were poor or abandoned. The Project focuses on health, education and human rights for children in Guatemala. The University of Mary is a small Catholic Benedictine college in North Dakota. Currently, educators from the University of Mary travel with groups of students to provide services in Guatemala, in collaboration with the GOD'S CHILD Project. The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn about aspects of culture, spirituality, and leadership as it relates to quality health care in general, and more specifically to college educators and health care practitioners who provided services to children and families in Antigua, Guatemala, through a collaboration between the GOD's Child Project and the University of Mary.

It is important to explore spirituality and cultural effectiveness, as there are government mandates to include both in health care today. In addition, health care professionals need to be leaders within their workplaces, their local or global communities, and within their professional organizations to promote health and wellness, to maintain quality care, to advocate for patients, and to advance their own professions.

The researcher used grounded theory methodology to collect and analyze data. Health care educators and practitioners were interviewed regarding their service experience in Guatemala. Results of this study suggest that cultural effectiveness is a process that requires direct interaction with other cultures, and will not occur in student practitioners from classroom experiences alone. This study found that the participants were servant leaders who acted as positive role models for their students in the midst of poverty and limited resources. Despite the language barrier and few resources, participants developed therapeutic alliances with the people they served in Guatemala, and made a difference by giving of themselves. Further, participants recognized the importance of spirituality in client centered care. Spirituality implied meaning, a connection, or relationships with others, which in turn fostered personal spiritual growth for participants in the study.

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