San Lucas Tolimán – First Timer
It is sometimes hard for those of us that are non-medical mission participants, to feel that we are providing the same amount of service that our amazing doctors and nurses provide on these missions. But what we quickly realize is we all play a crucial role, and on top of that, you recognize how much you have been changed because of the experience.
I asked Marta Salinas, as a non-medical participant (a “first- timer” for that matter) to share how figuring out what you can do for others changes your life in the process. – Carmen
As I packed for my first medical mission with Medical Missions Foundation to Guatemala, I was aware that I was preparing for an experience well outside my “normal” life. I travel globally all the time for my position in a global tech company, so the travel itself was not unusual. But as I started my packing, I knew this trip was going to be different, I was packing crocs instead of my usual high heels and jeans and T-shirts instead of business clothes. I knew I would be joining doctors, nurses, and others traveling to offer much needed medical care in a rural community. And I knew I was going as a translator. I was mainly concerned about my ability to adequately utilize my language skills to assist our tasks.
I was not fully focused or aware of how the experience would impact me is such a deep way. I wanted to join as a way to give something back to the world for the many blessings I have had in my life. But, I was not aware of how deeply I would be impacted by the experience and in particular, by seeing the respect and care with which doctors and nurses would treat the people we met. I had no idea that I would be touched deeply by the human connection that we shared as a team as we worked together. I assumed I was going to give something and now continue to be surprised at how much I receive as I reflect on the experience now that I have been back over 2 weeks.
Words cannot adequately communicate what I felt as I watched “Dr. Dan” carefully listen to a 12-year-old girl who had stopped living her life as a normal kid because of her asthma. The dusty fields in Guatemala prevented her from being able to run or play like her girlfriends. When we offered her an inhaler and told her that gold medalist Michael Phelps had the same condition she had tears welled up in her eyes. Her tears flowed, her mother’s tears flowed and my tears flowed. Dr. Dan gave her hope for a more fulfilling life because she could once again play with her friends despite the dusty fields. And she and Dr. Dan gave me much more. There are so many stories like this because of this amazing and caring team.
Before the trip, I assumed the medical team would be skilled but I did not realize the extent of the need to be skilled because of the challenging conditions in the hospital. These doctors are used to the best facilities in the US but they find a way to adjust to completely different circumstances and they do it in the most caring and human way possible, they showed great respect for all. As I spent time working with each of the members of the medical team, I also learned about adventurous and caring people with amazing skills, who unselfishly and joyfully take the time to share their skills with others. I am certain these skilled professionals do this all the time in their “real” jobs. But there is something special about their giving to people and patients who would not otherwise have access to this care.
What an impactful experience! I learned so much from the patients and the medical team. As I continue to reflect on the experience, I am grateful for the opportunity and for the hope for humanity that it brought me. Humanity still exists and there is hope that the world can become a better place. And, on my part, I am already asking for a spot next year. I hope they take me back, this time as an experienced mission volunteer!
SVP, Americas and Global Accounts
Multi Service Technology Solutions, Inc