After returning from Haiti on a recent Intervol medical mission trip, I am surprised by many things. Haitians still have such limited access to the basics - clean water, trash service and medical care. However, they remain proud of their culture. Despite the crumbled buildings, there is bright color and art in Haiti.
I am also surprised that so many people give of their time and expertise seven years after the earthquake. Almost our whole airplane was full with volunteers. This makes an impact but not only to Haiti but to those participating in the trip.
My 16 year old daughter, who also participated in the trip, was amazed at all she saw. She went on the trip primarily for humanitarian reasons but after seeing the medical side of things, is considering medical school.
Coming home from this trip made me thankful for all I have but also allowed me to understand those who are without. Those who are without are not always those who want material things or even a completely changed life - they are graciously accepting of their situation. They are willing to take help but not rely on it. They are not willing to change themselves in a way that would compromise who they are to get help. If they could not be Haitian in order to get help, I am sure most would refuse. The pride in their country and family shows through. They are not apologetic for not having just graceful about receiving. Yet they are the givers as well - they have given the team who came to help them an understanding of how to be happy in any moment, how to see beauty in ruins and how to accept help without giving up ones pride.
If you have never gone a medical mission trip, you should consider it- it's not just about giving back but about receiving the insight - some of which you would never imagine you would get. It is a life changing experience that I will never forget.
Karen Stierman, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Otolaryngology
Founder ENT and Allergy Center of Austin