I was asked to write a short article on my experiences in Guatemala.  As I only work in the operating room and the patients are asleep, I don’t have a lot of stories that I can share about the patients as much as someone in clinic or recovery. What I can tell about are how the trips are coordinated and the impact on the volunteers.

The coordination begins almost after our leadership meeting on Memorial weekend.  Letters and applications are mailed out and by this time I’ve already had calls and emails about the upcoming year.  Volunteers are so anxious to know the next dates and locations that they have contacted me before I can get the information to them.  Many volunteers have told me that they look forward to this every year and it’s become a part of their lives.

The impact on our Guatemalan friends is beyond words, but the impact these trips have on all of us that volunteer is even more profound.

I’ve seen them laugh, cry and share stories with many of the patients.  I’ve heard the stories about how they have had to tell someone they can’t help; that they have to take that child home to die—how they want to be able to do more.  Stories about the little boy or girl who return for a second surgery to complete their care.  Stories of a child that can move their fingers after extensive hand surgery from burns.  So many of the patients become a part of their lives and they remember them year after year.

The impact on our Guatemalan friends is beyond words, but the impact these trips have on all of us that volunteer is even more profound.  We feel blessed that we have been able to participate in all parts of these missions.

-Cammy Olsen