An unforgettable journey to deliver wellness

April 8, 2016
February marked the beginning of an unforgettable journey to the Andhra Pradesh region of India. The Caring Community Partners team of nine volunteers prepared for over a year to serve on this medical missions trip to Machilipatnam.  This was the fifth trip to India that the hospital has made. Veterans like Marc Petrey and Dee Ann Nicholson served as the mentors and leaders of the team, and Carol Petrey was appointed as the spiritual leader. The new members of the team were Dr. Kristin Charpentier, Sarah LaScuola, Aynslee Johnson, my husband, Henry Schmidt and me. All of us were out of our comfort zone, but willing to serve with an open heart.

Having been to Haiti and Africa, I thought I knew what to expect with this trip. I was not prepared for the two long days of travel, but I also wasn’t prepared for such a warm greeting by our hosts, the Pauls.  We have developed a strong rapport with the family, and many past members of the team have seen incredible growth over the years, especially in the nursing school. What once was a concrete foundation that Marc and other CCP members helped to build, is now a finished hallway with rooms that are ready to house nursing students. The hospital itself has designated an OR, a lab drawing room, and an unfinished second floor that will eventually serve as an inpatient unit.Each village we visited consisted of an established church where we would set up our medical camps. The medical camps consisted of a triage, multiple provider areas, and a pharmacy. An interpreter was assigned to each provider’s station, and Marc and Henry served as “traffic control” to help keep people in line and lighten the mood with fist bumps; they caught on fast and brought a smile to people’s faces. No matter the reason a person was there, they always smiled. Some of them walked for miles to see us, and many times I couldn’t communicate with them, other than offering a smile back.

Their ailments ranged from neck, back and leg pain, to cataracts, to wounds and high blood pressure. But for every new hardship comes an even greater reward. And for each small obstacle we encountered came an even greater outpouring of love from the children, the people we served, and the Paul family themselves.

By far, my favorite memory was my birthday. Gretchen Pike can vouch for me when I say that it is a humbling experience to have children from the NACEA school sing to you. The Pauls presented me with a cake, and I received birthday wishes from each boy and girl I took vital signs on that day.

A unique challenge on this trip was the opportunity to teach to the pastors and teachers of the villages that the Pauls have started. Such simple classes on diabetic care and hand hygiene have the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of the Indian people. Marc was able to demonstrate the Heimlich maneuver, which brought a lot of laughter to the class; and Dr. Charpentier’s information on diabetes sparked such a curiosity in her students that she stayed for hours to answer their questions.  Each of us was able to bring skills with us and represent CCP in a way that made a lasting impression.

As Caring Community Partners continues to grow, so does its established ties halfway around the world. So far, we have donated thousands of dollars to support the nursing school and other endeavors relevant to the work that the Pauls are doing. We are also making plans to commit to serve in India every other year.  What better way to experience another culture than to immerse yourself in the heart of its people?

Prior to 1950A Passion for Serving the Under-Served

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