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Saturday, May 14, 2016: Welcome to Guatemala!

The day started at 6:00 AM with our group of 21 student volunteers - weighing our check-ins, counting our group members, and hugging our families goodbye. It all felt like a dream and, quite frankly, it still does. After a year and a half of planning, we are finally in Guatemala! We were given full responsibility for making this happen, and I am so happy and proud of the University of Houston Honors Biology Sciences student team for working so efficiently with Humanity First to get here. We received the warmest welcome when we landed and are staying in the most beautiful mountainside villa.

I saw a colorful, circuitboard city as I looked out of the window on the plane. Today was full of beautiful images and landscapes to remember. Valleys, volcanoes, yellow walls, arms full of bananas, the greenest guacamole. We got to immerse ourselves in Guatemalan culture by having a pizza dinner at Queso y Vino and shopping at a local market. This country is beautiful and full of culture and history. I am so excited that the HBS student volunteers get to experience and learn about Guatemala together.

Aside from all of the fun, we received a lesson on how to take vitals this afternoon. Andres, a Guatemalan medical student volunteer, spent a couple of hours teaching us how to take pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and blood glucose. I volunteered to be a model patient when Andres demonstrated blood glucose measuring techniques. Although taking blood glucose levels is a relatively simple task, it felt humbling for me to play the role of the patients that we will be seeing. It is very easy for pre-med students to overlook important things like the patient’s experience. This reminded me to treat the patients with kindness and to keep their comfort in mind once I’m shadowing in the clinic.

Everything went so smoothly today. I feel so thankful and blessed for this entire experience. Although we have only completed one day of this journey, I only see greatness ahead. Traveling to a foreign country with 20 of my closest college friends is an experience of its own, and I already feel like a changed person. Thanks to everyone that has supported our team and is following our journey. I hope that our adventure here will touch not only my team’s lives, but also the lives of our patients and of those reading this blog.

And now I’m off to stargaze and relax. :)

- Amelia Khoei, Humanity First student volunteer

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Humanity First is registered in 43 countries across 6 continents, and has been working on human development projects and responding to disasters since 1994. These have included the earthquakes in Turkey, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, floods in Africa and Latin America, hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) , tornado's (Kansas) and wild fires (California) in the USA, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and conflicts in Eastern Europe.

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Since its inception and IRS registration in 2004, Humanity First has been focused on spending most of the raised funds on direct program related expenses. As a result, more than 90% of its funds are in that expense category. This is achieved through dedicated volunteers in its management, and program operation teams.

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