Student exceeds expectations on mission trip to Guatemala

Max Soda demonstrates CPR on a manikin to villagers while in Guatemala.

Bellin College students traveled on a medical mission with Mission El Faro to the Izabal region of Guatemala on the East Coast in January. One of the 13 students in tow for the trip stood out to Lynn Murphy, Assistant Professor at Bellin College and organizer of the annual trip. That being Max Soda, class of 2020.

Before heading on the trip, Soda reached out to his communities in Princeton and Montello, Wisconsin, to acquire supplies and donations for the trip. Singlehandedly he gathered “a massive amount of medical supplies, monetary donations of about $5,000 and a small mountain of shoes for the villagers living in Baltimore (the Queche Mayan Village), Rio Salado, Plan Grande Quehueche, and for those living in and around the city dump of Puerto Barrios,” Murphy said. “Max surpassed all of my expectations regarding his ability to reach out to his community to tell the story of the needs of the people of the east coast of Guatemala.” 

The annual Bellin College Mission Trip each year travels to Guatemala to bring needed medical supplies, stoves and water filters and they also perform checkups of the residents. This year they provided water filters for 35 families, new stoves for 19 families. The group brought 1,250 pounds of equipment to help support our clinics and teaching activities at the children’s hospital.

“With Max, his selflessness goes a long way,” Murphy said. “He consistently shows a genuine concern for the well-being of others and puts his own needs last. People notice this, and appreciate the rarity of such a quality. He has the ability to easily develop therapeutic relationships with people.  This was easily demonstrated by those who supported him and our Mission efforts, but also as he worked with the people of Guatemala in their home villages.”

“I wanted to go to Guatemala on the mission trip for many reasons,” Soda said. “I had never been out of the country and I thought this would be a great way to see more of the world. I had heard about the great need these villagers have, most lacking basic necessities. I found it shocking people can live in such harsh conditions in our day and age, and only a couple thousand miles away.”

Soda’s collections in the towns as small as Princeton and Montello are, populations of about 2,700 combined, really stood out to Murphy.

“I think Max’s collections are a true testament of how well connected the communities of Montello and Princeton really are,” Murphy said. “That they would be willing to help our Bellin College Guatemala Mission Team in such a dramatic way.”

“While we have our class periods together throughout the fall semester, learning the about the culture of Guatemalan people we will serve, most students are still unsure of all of the services which our clinics will provide,” she said. “However, Max excelled in the area of telling the story of need for water filters, stoves that vent smoke out of huts, anti-parasite medications, vitamins, shoes and the list goes on.”

Student takes blood pressure of resident in Guatemala.

Max Soda takes the blood pressure of a resident.

“I learned much from this experience, it was very eye opening to see the joy that the people expressed when we cared for them and provided for them,” said Soda. “Something so simple that often we do not see with our patients that we care for back home. I will certainly consider participating in more mission work in my future!”

The team traveling in January consisted of the 13 students, Bellin College faculty, nurse practitioners, nurses who are prior graduates of the college, support individuals and physicians at Bellin Health.

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