This past April, HealthLinx CEO, Julie Berry, visited Guatemala as part of a mission trip with the Free To Smile Foundation to provide quality surgical and dental service for impoverished children with cleft lip and palate deformities.
This has been the most humbling experience of my life, beyond words. The suffering is immeasurable. These families literally have nothing. They are the poorest of the poor in Guatemala and most of them live in dirt floor huts in rural/remote areas of the country. It takes them days to get to Guatemala City. A lot of them walk by foot for hours with their sick child draped on their back to get to the nearest bus station, all while they carry whatever necessities they’re able to in a trash bag.
We spoke with one father who left their home on foot at 4am to make it to the nearest bust stop by 4pm to take an 8 hour bus ride to one destination and then another bus stop for another 10 hour ride to finally get to Guatemala City. This is just one of the countless examples we heard while on our trip. They make a pilgrimage of faith in hopes their child may get a chance at a better and more dignified life.
Once they arrive in Guatemala City, they knock on doors until a stranger lets them in to stay the night before they’re able to check into a convent until the Free To Smile team arrives.
Once able to go to the clinic, 70+ children and their single parent are patiently awaiting for the FTS team to arrive. As our group walked into the clinic waiting room, I could feel the Holy Spirit move through me. I was immediately moved to tears and was emotionally raw like I’ve never felt before.
It was a very long and hectic 1st day in the clinic taking each child from rotation to rotation. Meanwhile, the children and parents waited patiently, and then waited and waited more not uttering one complaint. They sat there lovingly and gracefully while they awaited their turn through the process.
Some children were turned away due to illnesses, but almost all of the patients were accepted.
The surgical days were very long and tiring, starting at 7am and ending at 8 or 9pm. Each surgeon performed at least 4 surgeries per day.
The volunteers leave their families to provide extremely complicated and tedious surgical procedures for nothing in exchange except for the hope these children will be able to live somewhat of a happy and normal life. It’s been my honor and privilege to work with this incredibly selfless and compassionate team.
It’s been an amazing spiritual journey, one I will never forget and one which I hope has just begun. I connected on a deep spiritual level, not only with the parents and babies, but with the entire FTS team. Each contributed in a profound way to make this mission a success. They are the heroes.
As a young girl on the mission said, “Live with Love and you shall be blessed.”
I feel we are put on this Earth by God to help others, love and give back. FTS, keep spreading the Love and doing good. The world needs more people like you.
If you would like to donate to Free To Smile, please click here.
HealthLinx has also teamed up with FTS to provide a nurse with a FREE mission trip scholarship. Please apply or share with pediatric nurses you know who may be interested.