Guest Blogger: Greg McLeod, MADF Board of Directors
Have you ever seen what it’s like when people don’t have access to but need medical care?
I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to serve on a medical mission trip in Mendoza Argentina this past September and while the number of patients we saw was impressive, the number of lives impacted was countless. I was able to witness firsthand how challenging it is for families that don’t have access to medical care.
In partnership with International Medical Relief, our wonderful hosts at YWAM, and 5 WBY providers, we were able to provide care to communities that in some cases, hadn’t seen doctors since the pre COVID-19 era. While the days were 12-14 hours at times, the overwhelming sense of humility that each day brought made the time and the fatigues seem non-consequential.
Over the course of the week, we had 4 clinic days seeing patients. Some of the most vivid memories of the trip included the following:
Day one in Colonia Italia, Lavalle we had patients arriving by the bus load. Mothers waited for hours for their children to be seen
and on some occasions, became upset with how long things were taking. Nonetheless, once they had a chance to see our providers, not a single person left the clinic without a sense of gratitude and happiness that they were able to see our doctors. The sound of the courtyard we set up to teach community educations was thunderous as kids ran around flying airplanes (into each other and any stationary object visible), making artistic masterpieces with crayon and paper, and actively engaging in our demonstrations on hand washing and oral hygiene. The Stu
ffed animal IMR provided us to show teeth brushing techniques, previously named PJ, was affectionately renamed to Mateo – the Italian form of the Hebrew name, Matthew. At the end of the day, we were presented with gifts of jarred fruits and pepper from the area.
Day two in the Jocolo district, Lavalle saw us serving people being bused in from the other side of the dessert to see us. We also saw first-hand, the impact of what’s referred to as a Zonda – dessert dust storm of sorts, that swept in and picked up a tent we had in place to provide shade for patients as they waited for care. Other highlights that day ranged from all of us having a chance to practice Spanish with the help of our translators to the amazing Asado that was prepared for us at the end of the day as well as the traditional Argentinian dances taught to us. In addition, we had the pleasure of meeting the deputy mayor of the district who personally jumped in to help prepare the Asado meal for us.
Day three in the Santo Tomas district in Las Heras was monumental. We set up clinic in an area referred to as the “Basuras” where residents work in a garbage dump across the street, build their homes from scraps found in the dump, and scour the dump as a source of daily sustenance (food, items to sell, etc.). Our day included a visit from the mayor of the area, who came to thank the foundation for partnering with IMR and YWAM to provide care to their residents. We also had a young man by the name Machel take the lead in teaching our stretching classes which he and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed. We previously visited a preschool in the area and had an opportunity to sing twinkle, twinkle little stars to the kids. In another instance, we heard a young child ask his parent why we were in their community wearing masks which we found out later was odd to him because children from that area rarely leave the Basuras and as such, he wouldn’t have seen many people wearing masks in some time.
Day four presented challenges early as our bus broke down on the way to our site in the Algarrobal district, Las Heras. However, our clinicians showed their commitment by walking the remaining blocks to get to the clinic and provide patient care. After a long day of seeing patients, our hosts at YWAM prepared the equivalent of a royal feast for us in appreciation of our service to the people of Mendoza (drooling on my laptop as I type this just thinking about the food).
We also learned about the impact the local wine industry has had on the Mendoza community in that, though it’s brought about economic benefit, it’s impacted the health of the vineyard workers, many of whom start working at 12 years old. For example, we met a lady that had an abnormal growth on her shoulder that developed after years of carrying metal pans of grapes on her shoulders.
This trip was not only life changing for the patients we saw but it touched each volunteer by forcing us to shift our eyes from what’s lacking in our individual lives and instead release our energy into appreciating all that we have been fortunate enough to be blessed with. For some of our physicians, it reminded them of why they originally got into medicine and forced them to focus on connecting with each patient on an individual level. The lessons we brought back with us will be shared and via an on-going ripple effect continue to change lives for years to come. I am blessed to have had this opportunity and am forever grateful.