DaVita Stories

Beyond Our Borders: My Family’s Experience as Bridge of Life Volunteers in Haiti

Editor’s Note: This post is part two of a two-part series. Click here to read part one on volunteering with Bridge of Life

Bridge of Life (BOL) was looking to pilot a new process allowing volunteers to take family members with them on missions. I quickly offered to test it out during my recent mission work with BOL in Haiti and was fortunate enough to take my wife, Anita, and two of my three daughters, Meredith, 17, and Gillian, 15, on my travels as an initial pilot by BOL.

I was incredibly proud of my family and the work they put into this mission. Our daughters took it upon themselves to study about Haiti before the mission start, chose Haiti as a school project and even found an app on their phone that teaches Haiti’s native language of Creole. They were true contributing members of the team, learning as they went and even shadowing the physicians with an eagerness to know more.

My daughter Meredith was deeply affected by the many experiences she encountered: “About halfway through our one day, a little girl pointed at the henna tattoo on my hand that I had gotten a few days before our trip and then pointed to her hand,” Meredith said. “I figured she also wanted a tattoo. So I grabbed a Sharpie, and before I knew it, I was swarmed with children asking for tattoos. I spent a good half an hour that day designing ‘henna’ tattoos for the little Haitian boys and girls. It made my day to see so many smiles.”

My 15-year-old daughter Gillian commented, “Being on this mission was like opening my school textbooks and seeing these foreign lands and cultures that I’ve only read about but then jumping into the picture to actually experience and be part of it.”

My wife, Anita, also shared, “This trip was remarkable. I learned how to take blood pressure, test blood for glucose and creatinine, read urine test strips, speak a bit of Creole, set up a mobile medical clinic, and so much more. What a fantastic BOL mission this was! Not only were we able to exam, evaluate and treat almost 1,500 Haitians, but more importantly, BOL and Double Harvest created the opportunity for sustained health improvements for people living in rural villages.”

Out of all my experiences on this mission, my favorite moment was taking our Haitian partners from Double Harvest to the beach for a day of relaxation after a long and hectic week. I was surprised to learn that some of our Haitian partners had never been in the ocean! Some of them even wore life jackets. I ended up holding some of them in the water like children. One of the women from the kitchen team, probably in her fifties, couldn’t stop laughing and hugging me as she felt the ocean water all around her. I suddenly realized we were giving them an experience like nothing they ever had and one they’ll likely never forget. One of the partners even said to me, “With this group, everyone loved each other and loved me just for how I am – God was here this week.”

This mission was a wonderfully powerful experience for all of us as individuals as well as a wonderful bonding experience for my family. The pure joy of this experience was being able to serve others – it filled our trip with meaning and purpose and even made us reevaluate the way our family will travel in the future. We returned with a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation for all that we have. And we realized how blessed we truly are.

Dave Hoerman

Dave Hoerman

Dave is the chief wisdom officer for the DaVita enterprise. In this role Dave oversees the Wisdom team, which is responsible for all cultural elements as well as organizational and leadership development.