Over the past several years I had always talked about participating in a medical mission trip, but to be honest I had no clue where to start my search for an organization that felt like a good fit for my skill set. That brings me to this past December when I came across The 4North Project and their Stronger Together trip in collaboration with Medventure and Travel Nurse Takeover. I followed along on instagram throughout the duration of their initial trip to get an idea of the community they were serving, the care they were providing and to determine if this might be the trip I had been searching for. When they announced their trips for this past May, it just so happened to fall perfectly between contracts and my gut told me that I had to get involved. After not much of a personal debate at all I decided to sign up for the second week, and lets just say I was so incredibly glad I did............
From the moment I was greeted by Matt, Sierra and Emily at the airport and escorted onto the bus where everyone else was patiently waiting for the last of us to arrive, I knew in my heart that I was right where I was meant to be. For most of us, we went from complete strangers to a tight knit family in a matter of days. It felt like I had known these incredible humans my entire life. Matt, the founder of The 4North project so graciously opens his home for volunteers each trip. We all stayed under one roof bunk bed style as one big, happy family. We enjoyed breakfast together each morning and would sit out on the porch for debriefs each evening after clinic. At night we would go into Bani to explore local restaurants together. We did quickly find out what "Dominican time" was as dinner was usually a 4 hour adventure.
The first two days of the clinic were spent in the community of Las Tablas and the final day we spent up in Jobito, a more remote mountain community of Bani. There were mothers carrying children, elderly walking on the uneven dirt road with inadequate mobility devices, and others who had walked miles to come see us. For some, this may have been the only basic medical exam they had received in years. We provided blood sugar and blood pressure checks, non medical eye exams, group and individualized physical therapy, quality education to help create sustainable change and we distributed adult and pediatric medications based on the patients needs. During the Las Tablas clinic days I was assigned to the eye exam station. I was honestly unsure what to expect, but I will say that what I experienced was so incredibly humbling. There is one elderly woman who stands out to me in particular. She had expressed that she wanted to be able to see in order to simply “read her bible each morning.” So we began her eye exam by having her read the passage on the paper in front of her, holding it about arms length away. We would move down the line to see which glasses helped her see most clearly. When we got to the prescription that was +4 (a fairly strong prescription), a large smile began to form from ear to ear. "I can finally see," she stated. By this she meant that for the very first time in her life she can actually see clearly, clear enough to read her bible each morning, something she had never been able to do before that day. As someone who has relied heavily on eye care and contacts my entire life in order to see to be able to do simple daily tasks, this really hit home.
“Service to others in their time of need is a privilege and an honor.”― Harley King
This quote truly resonates with the work that we did in Bani. It was undoubtedly a privilege and an honor to be openly welcomed into the underserved community of Bani, to help create sustainable change. When we arrived we were strangers to them, yet the welcome we received from the community was astounding. This community, and these people will forever hold a special place in my heart. I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity and I can't wait to be back in Bani on future medical trips.
Written By: Shelby Green, RN & MedVenturist