Our journey began in San Francisco, where 17 medical and non-medical volunteers flew to Oaxaca, Mexico to meet over 100 patients whose smiles we hope to save. After getting our heavy boxes through customs, facilitated by the Consul General Office in San Jose, the Health Department in Oaxaca, and the support we received from the Club Rotario Guelaguetza Oaxaca, we were warmly greeted by the Rotary Club made up entirely of women.
Finally, our long-awaited day arrived, when we met our patients, who were anxiously waiting for the inauguration ceremony to begin, so that we could go about taking care of their children. The ceremony began with the raising of the colors, the national anthem, an inspiring speech from the governor's representative, who reminded us that in the last 3 months, Oaxaca has suffered from a devastating hurricane and a large earthquake. Both catastrophes have been devastating to the poor in his state. Many of these people have lost their homes and their jobs, so to receive this surgery at no cost is a priceless gift in a time of despair. He poignantly reminded us that our work makes a significant difference in the lives of these children and that though they may not speak English, he knew that we would be able to see the gratitude in their eyes.
A very heartwarming speech was followed with some words from Laura, the president of the Rotary Club, who spoke about the mission of Rotary and the "4-way test", which assured the audience that we were here to perform these surgeries free of charge.
The children's hospital itself was impressive. It was staffed for any ailment ranging from rare infections to oncology, from burn victims to orthodontistry, from ophthalmology to premature births. They had specialists in every area and they were most gracious in the use of their facilities. Equally impressive, and despite the assumption that Mexico is a male-dominated country, the department heads were a balanced gender ratio.
Written by Sandra Jewett
Photos by Carl Cilker