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India 2018 – A Passion for People

Ken and his father in the 1990s (when Ken had more hair)

I’m not a health-care professional, but my wife is a nurse practitioner. Because of that, I’ve learned a few things about medical folks. Number one: When you go to dinner with a group of nurses, the gross medical stories always start when the food arrives. Always. Number two: Physicians and nurses are among the kindest, most decent, most dedicated human beings I’ve ever met.


That passion for people is why I’m so excited to be joining the Medical Missions Foundation’s upcoming trip to India on February 23. This is the organization’s third mission to the Sewa Sadan Eye Hospital in Bhopal, and in 2017, the 18-person medical team conducted 136 surgeries in four and a half days, providing services worth more than $716,000.


Throughout our week in Bhopal, I’ll be blogging about the team’s life-changing work. This is my first journey to India, but I’m an experienced global volunteer. Following the unexpected death of my father 12 years ago, I volunteered in six countries, including Costa Rica, Kenya, and Palestine. In China, I worked at a special needs school. In Ecuador, I collected scientific data in a remote Andes cloudforest. I shared these experiences in my award-winning memoir, The Voluntourist.


But this trip is different. First off, I confess, I’m a little nervous about entering the operating room. I’m a writer. My work day rarely involves carotid endarterectomies. Or blood. Or exposed organs. (I have, however, seen the jarringly graphic covers of my wife’s many medical magazines. Gangrenous toes are a common sight on our coffee table.) And second, because I’m a writer, I don’t have any actual, you know… skills. Certainly not the skills that save lives. So the highly trained men and women on this medical team are both impressive and intimidating.


In Costa Rica, Ken and his wife taught English at an elementary school

I may not be a surgeon, but I am a storyteller, and that will my job in India. I’ll be sharing many uplifting moments, as well as the many challenges, and introducing you to the volunteers and patients on this year’s trip. My goal: To make you feel like you’re working, smiling, and sweating with us in Bhopal (the high temperature will be 91 on Sunday). Look for the blog posts on Facebook. For those of you who’ll be working with us in India, please post your stories and photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use the hashtag #HealthforIndia. You can also financially support missions that provide healthcare to underserved communities around the world.


Shortly before my father died, he shared six words that changed me: Success comes from helping others succeed. Medical Missions Foundation embodies that idea, as do the talented, hard-working individuals who will be saving lives in Bhopal. I look forward to sharing their stories. Let the journey begin!