One for All: Volunteering with Bridge of Life in Haiti
Editor’s Note: This post is part one of a two-part series. Check back for part two on firsthand mission experiences from Dave’s family.
I recently joined Bridge of Life (BOL)’s board of directors and had hoped to participate in one of their medical missions for quite some time. So I jumped at the chance when BOL approached me about traveling with them for a mission to Haiti.
Over a five-day period in July, our volunteer team served nearly 1,500 patients who have little or no access to regular healthcare in five different rural Haitian communities, providing them with primary care services as well as screenings for and education on chronic disease.
BOL’s leadership team prepared us in advance for what to expect: long working hours, hot and humid weather, rough conditions, and the varying conditions of the many people we would be serving. But what we didn’t realize was the impact our work would have and ALL the people we would affect: our volunteers, our patients AND our partners.
I was struck by the extreme poverty in Haiti – it was like nothing I’d seen before. But through the dirt and dust and lack of clean water, electricity and sufficient clothing, the Haitian people shined through. There was singing, laughter, funny misunderstandings, and warm welcomes. Children were a highlight for me: a soft “bonjour little one,” their smiles, reaching out to hold our hands or hug us, their simple appreciation…it made me feel incredible.
The short-term results of this mission were exciting – we were able to treat almost 1,500 patients in a quick time frame, including 25 patients in a rural village who had symptoms of typhoid fever and received lifesaving medication. But it was the long-term impact and sustainability of our work that really amazed me.
I had the chance to talk to Dr. Peter Pierrot, the director of Double Harvest, BOL’s in-country partner. He shared his personal vision with me –his pursuit of leading change in Haiti one family, one community and one region at a time. His dream is to be Haiti’s Minister of Health so he can truly serve all of the Haitian people.
I also experienced BOL’s new Community Health Worker initiative firsthand and saw how it was a real game-changer. This patient referral program made us confident that the people we served would continue to receive necessary medication and follow-up care long after our mission was complete.
The DaVita Way was so ALIVE among our team. For those of you who are not familiar with The DaVita Way, it means that we “care for each other with the same intensity with which we care for our patients.” Our collaboration was evident from the start of the trip, and it was one of the best teams I’ve ever experienced. Our different ethnicities and backgrounds melded us together, and we all shared a common bond of love and passion for our mission that I hope I never forget!