As I am packing for my fourth trip with Surgicorps, people often comment “Oh, you are such a good person!!” I’m thrilled that’s what they think, but the truth is I’m really not that good. I do it because it makes me incredibly happy. I have so much fun I just can’t stay home. Each trip is a new adventure. I travel to places I’ve never imagined seeing, with people I’ve never met, to work long hours in hospitals that aren’t exactly like the hospitals at home. I’ve learned new languages, tried new food, followed new customs. I’ve learned to always carry a flashlight, a multi-tool, and duct tape, how to wrap a lungi so it won’t fall off, and how to use a rural Asian bathroom. I’ve made new friends across the world, and seem to have brought a little comedy to the locals with my attempts at speaking new languages.
The cynics say “Oh, you’re trying to save the world”…hardly. But we do make an enormous difference in the lives of the kids lucky enough to be able to reach us. The endless poverty, starvation, illness are unimaginable. I remember the woman and her young daughter burned from having acid thrown in their faces, the couple who lost four children under the age of 5 to illness, the man so severely scarred from diesel burns I couldn’t find his eyes to look at him. There are children that do not fuss, waiting all day for surgery having nothing to eat, and do not cry with exercise or bandage changes.
What impresses me the most is the dignity of the poorest of poor, the grace with which they face unimaginable tragedies and horrific injuries, often from violence. The gratitude of the hospital staff when I show them a simple strap that can help people that lost use of their hands hold an object, and their pride when I ask for information to take home with me to share their skill in building adaptive equipment from nothing but used cardboard boxes and glue. And these people, who seem to have nothing to give, give the most, in one place literally by singing songs of gratitude. (Yes, we all cry!).They teach me the strength of the human spirit, they exemplify that joy and hope can prevail under desperate living conditions.
A message home from my first trip still holds true: “Who would have dreamed that I would pay so much money to travel so far and work so hard and love every second of it”. On each trip I laugh and I cry and I come home with experiences that warm and fill my soul. Pictures and words cannot begin to explain what happens on a Surgicorps trip. I don’t do it to be nice, but doing it does open my heart wider than I ever knew possible. And I know that each time I travel, I come home just a little bit nicer. I give five days of work, what I get back is priceless.