Julie Berry, HealthLinx CEO, recently returned from her second mission trip to Guatemala in the past 8 months with Free To Smile Foundation. After an eye-opening mission trip in April 2016, Julie wanted to become more involved and included her son, Aidan, for this visit. Below is a recap from Julie, along with thoughts shared from Aidan:
This mission trip has been so rewarding on many levels. Personally, I’m forever grateful for Free To Smile for encouraging me to bring our son, Aidan, on this mission trip. Aidan was very reluctant and scared to go; however, by the 2nd day into our trip, I knew it was the right decision for him to gain this experience.
Aidan was engaged with all the members of the mission, and especially the orphans he met (there is an orphanage attached to the hospital where the surgeries took place; the entire complex is run by 8 nuns). He became close with a special little boy named Melvin. Melvin is a 6 year old orphan who was neglected by his alcoholic and abusive father and abandoned by his alcoholic grandmother. Melvin was living mostly on the streets until the orphanage took him in, along with his younger brother and sister. By the grace of God, they’re all living happily and safely at the orphanage now.
There are so many stories of child abandonment, abuse and poverty. Aidan was able to really relate to these children. He has learned how powerful it can be to give back and help others, a life lesson I hope he’ll always remember.
Here’s what Aidan wanted to share about his experience on this mission trip:
“I was very sad because so many children and citizens in Guatemala have hardly any opportunities in life. Orphans with nothing, struggling to find meaning. For babies and children with cleft lip and palette, once they have surgery, it changes their life forever, but they still need time to recover before it’s repaired.
People in America and countries in Europe shouldn’t take for granted all of the opportunities, schools and government-funded programs we have. So many people over here desire these things so they can have a chance to do something in life and to make a name for themselves. Maybe, hopefully, someday everybody in the world and in Guatemala will have the same opportunities that we do.
It has really changed my perspective on life, people and material goods that we have so much of. It has inspired me to continue to do things like these in Guatemala and in places where people are in need. It has also made me strive to make the world a better place and to raise money for these foundations that do so much good for so many people around the world. And I hope more people will too.”
– Aidan Stone Berry, 14 years old
As we depart Guatemala, I have mixed feelings. I’m so thankful we’ve had this experience together, but I’m sad to say goodbye to the amazing souls we met on this trip. I feel much sorrow for these beautiful children and their parents who are barely getting by, yet need serious medical attention.
The time we’ve shared together on this mission trip has been sacred; more inspiring than words can say.
I hope and pray this is the beginning of an amazing journey for Aidan. May he continue to ignite his soul with the power and light of giving back to this world. My hope is he will continue to do good throughout his life, and leave the world a better place.
If you would like to donate to Free To Smile or learn more about this great cause, please click here.