In this brief video, learn more about why LEAP mission volunteers serve the organization and continue doing so year after year. The hours are long, the work is hard, and while they use their vacation days to serve, missions are anything but relaxing.

Dr. Candace Granberg

Urologist Dr. Candace Granberg has traveled with us to Haiti on numerous occasions. In early 2017, she started a Facebook campaign called #hammerforhaiti to raise money for LEAP with the goal of $2500 before traveling to Haiti on April 20. The plan was that if she reached that goal, she would carry the heavier hammer in the fall Hammer Race.


Chris & Emma Lamon

Father/daughter duo Chris and Emma Lamon traveled with us to Haiti in October 2017. The Lamon family has been very involved with LEAP for years with three generations of support spanning across our Mission and Landmark programs.


Scott Porter

Scott Porter is a local photographer who has traveled with us on missions to Haiti and Belize. He’s a bit quiet and unassuming, but that’s because he’s focused on capturing the moment rather than being in it. Scott’s got an inimitable talent for capturing an entire story within a single frame. It’s always hard to explain what it’s like to be on mission, but his work represents the layers of emotion, the purity of spirit, and the sweat equity involved in the work.


LEAP’s Surgical Mission Team Leaders Look Ahead to 2018

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Dianne Altuna

Dianne Altuna

We recently asked some of LEAP’s 2017 Medical Team Leaders, who offer guidance and support to our surgical teams while on mission, to share their hopes and advice for LEAP in the coming year.

  • Dianne Altuna is a Speech Pathologist who co-led our final trip to Haiti this year with LEAP Missions Coordinator Donna Matthews. She has served on 5 surgical missions with LEAP, the first being to Haiti in April 2015. She also volunteers in our office and warehouse.
  • Dr. Evan Beale is a Plastic Surgeon who served as a Team Lead on our final trip to Haiti this year and has served on 6 surgical missions with LEAP, starting with our 2012 mission to Zimbabwe.  
  • Dr. Eric Payne is a Plastic Surgeon who has served as a Team Lead two years in a row on the Zimbabwe mission. He has traveled with LEAP on 8 total surgical missions—4 to India, 3 to Zimbabwe, and 1 to Haiti.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Richards is an Anesthesiologist from Australia who served as an Anesthesia Lead for LEAP on the Zimbabwe mission this year. She has served on 5 surgical missions with LEAP, the first being to Zimbabwe in 2012
Dr. Evan Beale

Dr. Evan Beale

As a LEAP Team Leader, what do you hope 2018 has in store for LEAP?

Dianne Altuna: That LEAP is able to continue to provide blessings to individuals and their families who have a facial difference in many countries where these types of services are not readily available. And that these blessings for those LEAP works with become blessings for each volunteer on the trip.

Dr. Evan BealeI hope we continue to grow the number of surgeries we do, increase the volunteers we enlist, continue to expand our donor base, and to touch as many lives around the globe as possible.

Dr. Eric Payne

Dr. Eric Payne

Dr. Eric PayneI hope 2018 brings LEAP new opportunities to help change more children’s lives than ever before, so we can show the love and hope of Christ. 

Dr. Elizabeth Richards:  I would like 2017, the year of Jubilee, to welcome 2018, a brand-new year of excitement, hope and mercy for all peoples of the nations. The world is experiencing a turn of tide, and this is affecting the innocent in not only their well-being, but their hope, their freedoms and their opportunities to face the world and fulfill their destinies. I would love to see LEAP increase the repertoire of people they serve through medical care and ministry.  

What advice/insight would you give to next year’s volunteer leaders?

Dr. Elizabeth Richards

Dr. Elizabeth Richards

Dianne Altuna: Be flexible! And, if you are a Team Leader, work with the other Team Leaders to help solve challenges. Sometimes, another Lead may have new ideas and a new way to help a challenge become a win-win for everyone. There is not one person on any trip that is more important than another; each person brings to the trip a set of skills, these skills may be different but may, in the long run, help the entire team.

Dr. Evan Beale:  Get to know your team as well as you can.

Dr. Eric Payne: Stay positive in the face of adversity because you are doing good in the world, and it will be a struggle with many unexpected problems to face. You must encourage everyone to keep working hard and they will rise to the occasion to solve every problem. 

Dr. Elizabeth Richards: Most of all, enjoy the experience and the joy that comes with serving ‘the least of one of these’. Fulfillment is an end product of giving your services without expecting anything in return. And don’t forget the blessings you’ll get from the All Mighty God! There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain! 


Haiti Reflections: Dylan Bengtson

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IMG_7932Dylan Bengston is a non-medical volunteer (and cousin to Blake Bengston, who we featured on the blog last summer) who traveled with LEAP on our October mission to Haiti. We caught up with him to learn more about his experience. Here’s what he had to say.

Being a part of the LEAP surgical mission to Haiti was definitely one of the most influential, eye-opening experiences of my whole life. The team I was able to work with and all of the patients were absolutely fantastic, and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it. Everyone on the team was so focused and engaged in our objective while we were there, and it was incredible to learn under so many professionals. I think LEAP is an amazing organization. We were able to have a fun time while still focusing fully on whatever task was at hand. I became close with so many awesome people, and that was definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. I learned so much about not only medicine but also about the people of Haiti and the country itself.

IMG_7840One of my favorite moments was seeing one young patient with a cleft lip and palate who was around 3 months old. Everyone was infatuated with his smile and spirit. and he was just the most uplifting little guy, even while he was going through a tough experience. Overall, it was amazing to see the look on all of the parents’ faces when their kids got out of surgery, and I loved being able to tell them that everything went great and just see the hope in their eyes.

The trip was different than I thought it would be in a good way. In no way at all was the atmosphere stressful or tense at any time, and everyone on the team always had a smile on their face. My heart was very touched with the impact that we were able to have and all of the lives we were able to improve.

Haiti Reflections: Emma & Chris Lamon

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Haiti - Emma with baby-1The Lamon family has been very involved with LEAP for years with three generations of support spanning across our Mission and Landmark programs. Last year, we introduced you to Jane Lamon, who served as Host Mom for beloved Landmark recipient Li Ying, as well as to her son Matt and daughter-in-law Abby. Today, we’re sharing the story of Chris (Jane’s husband) and their daughter Emma in a reflection piece on their volunteer efforts on our most recent surgical mission to Haiti.

Your family has been involved with LEAP for a number of years. What keeps you involved and active?

Chris: Doug Lamon (my dad), our families, and our Landmark organization have supported LEAP over the years. My dad partnered with Craig Hobar to help develop the Landmark Program within LEAP, and it is our desire to be able to take this support to a new level over time.

At the core of LEAP is this steadfast drive to overcome obstacles and provide efficient and caring service based on acceptance, compassion, love, and respect. Through example, this has been inspired by LEAP’s founder and carried forward by the LEAP family of volunteers and staff.

Being a part of this provides a sense of purpose, mental and spiritual health, and happiness. The opportunity to experience this is not so much a responsibility but a privilege.

It also seems like going on a LEAP trip is a bit of a rite of passage for the Lamon kids–is that a fair statement?

Chris:  My dad has experienced trips. He encouraged me to go on a trip. And our children have been on a trip with either Jane or myself and on their own.

The “rite of passage” is not so much the leaving of one group for another – but perhaps it is more about leaving one perspective behind forever for another perspective that provides a much broader understanding of purpose, responsibility, care, giving, and love.

IMG_0949What was it like going on a father/daughter trip to Haiti?

Chris: This is, by far, the best quality time I could have with Emma. We get to experience together the positive impacts of participating in the many eye-opening learnings that are part of being on a mission trip.

Emma: It was an amazing experience having the opportunity to go to Haiti with my dad. We shared a lot of experiences and learned new things together. We created a lot of memories that I will forever hold in my heart.

What was your experience like in Haiti? 

Chris: Working in a busy city in one of the poorest countries in the world leaves a big impression. It is overwhelming how much there is to do and the fact that the economic fundamentals are so broken. But the mission was not to lament those issues but to lift people up and make a positive, selfless impact. That is what I saw the team do extremely well.

What touched my heart is the concern and level of care the team demonstrated and the hope and level of trust the people demonstrated who were handing over their loved ones to the support and surgical teams.

Emma: I knew coming into the trip about the poverty in Haiti. It is one thing to know and another thing to see and experience. I knew about the earthquake, but seeing how it affects people in their day-to-day life is hard to explain.

I also found the people there to be uplifting and spirited. They are thankful for what they have. To see people be so cheerful and happy in these conditions was hard to understand and made me very thankful for my health and family.

The kids in Haiti are very strong, and I was impressed with their willingness to let us help improve their life. The Haitian people touched my heart. They are the most thankful people I have ever met. Being able to talk to them and see what they have overcome in their life and how thankful they are for LEAP touched my heart. LEAP has and continues to change many lives.

And though I was there to help change a life, mine was in turn changed dramatically.

Haiti - Emma with kidsWhat is something from this experience that you will always remember?

Emma: I will always remember the feeling of having the opportunity to scrub into a surgery and help really impact a person’s life for the better. All I could think while in the surgery was how this will impact their life forever. It was the best feeling.

I will also remember the kids and volunteers that I met on that trip. To hear their stories of how they have lived and what has occurred in their life will be with me forever.

Is there anything else you want to say or share about your experience or what you think about LEAP?

Chris: The stamina of the entire team is really something.

Emma: LEAP has changed many, many lives. What I don’t think some people understand is that having the opportunity to go on a LEAP trip will change their life forever. I have learned so much in the short 4 days of being there and the experiences I experienced will stick with me for my life.

Getting to share this with my dad and the LEAP team was a great experience, for which I am very grateful.



Mexico: Dr. Alejandra Garcia

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21200708_486360641718898_5888570809863226556_oDr. Alejandra Garcia, a pediatric plastic surgeon and longtime LEAP medical volunteer, helped lead a small team to Zihuatanejo, Mexico to address the need for ear reconstructions in pediatric patients. This location is outside LEAP’s usual mission locations, but we felt called to lend a hand. Below, Dr. Garcia describes the experience from her point of view.

What drew you to the need for pediatric ear reconstructions in Zihuatanejo? 
We have family in the area. They connected with a local ENT who takes care of all kinds of patients, adults, and children. He shared the tremendous need for specialists and access to care. He specifically sees a lot of children with ear malformations. He knows what an impact it has on their social development and was frustrated that he had no way to get them treatment.

When you arrived, what were some of your first impressions with regard to how the team would be able to make a difference? 
We were greeted at the airport by a full local team very enthusiastic to get this mission going. This was the first reassurance that we were meant to be here. Once we arrived at the hospital, we saw a full waiting room of patients and all the hospital staff welcoming our team. The local ENT said, “this is only the beginning, there are so many more!”

Describe the dynamics of the team that went on the trip. What were your greatest strengths? 
This was a core team, experienced LEAPers who spent weeks preparing and came with an incredible attitude to represent our organization, our mission, and step up to the challenges of a first time in a new location. Some were old friends to me, and some were new faces, yet all had that enthusiasm and dedication that I am familiar with in all LEAP volunteers.

Was there a particular patient story that moved you or a memory you will always hold dear? 
The last case we were able to do was that of a 9-year-old boy with an ear that was “curled”. While this did not require a full reconstruction, it was a challenge to get his ear to open up. His mother was tearful from the moment we said we would do the surgery, knowing this would make a huge difference in her son’s life. My favorite moment was when we took off the dressings a few days later and showed the boy his ear. He opened his eyes wide and gave the sweetest smile.

Why do you serve with LEAP? What motivates you to offer your skills to those in need? 
Everything is a gift from God. If you believe that then you know your skills are His. Every LEAP mission has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. The camaraderie is difficult to describe. To me this means that’s what we are supposed to be doing with whatever skills we have to offer.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
There were so many more patients than we were able to treat, I am eager to return!