I started with LEAP during my fellowship year. International medical work was already a key passion but a question of how and when. During fellowship, Dr. Hobar said the time is now; just start doing it! Life never gets easier. It never gets simper, just more complicated. So I decided to make it a commitment from then on.
Last April was my sixth mission trip, and it is always an honor to be the team leader in Haiti. Going back to Haiti allows you to take care of complicated cases over a period of years. There is nothing like the joy of repairing a cleft lip or palate. It’s wonderful that I can exercise that passion in a totally different environment. You get to know the families. They receive quality comprehensive care that they would never otherwise receive. Just like in the U.S., cleft care requires an understanding of where the child is now. They might be old enough for the surgery but not big enough or healthy enough. We then equip the family on how to make sure the child is ready for surgery the next time we arrive. It is critical for these kids to have a comprehensive approach.
I believe I was called to help in God’s plan for these children. They are born with a congenital difference that makes life very challenging. The fact that we get to be God’s hands in a real tangible sense is awesome. It is the recognition that we are all in this together, and we are all God’s children.
Additionally, there is a special camaraderie during such an intensive period of time. Over the course of the trip, you renew relationships with returning volunteers and become fast friends with new ones. Traveling to Haiti with LEAP is one of my favorite trips of the whole year. The overall impression and energy that is created by doing things for all the right reasons stays with me.