The day started actually last night, with the volunteers gathering at San Francisco Airport beginning around 8:30 p.m.. Renewing those bonds with friends from other missions. Telling stories. Catching up. Getting ready for the next adventure.
The boxes arrived soon after. Thirty-four boxes of supplies and equipment delivered in a trailer. Ready hands pitched in delivering the boxes to the airline check in. A bit chaotic, but we were all checked in eventually.
Our flight left just after midnight Monday morning 2/16/15. First we went to Houston, picked up a few more team members and then onto Guatemala. While waiting in the line at Customs, Silvana Ayuso of the Rotary in Guatemala City found us and became our official guardian. Guatemalan Rotary liaison Carlos Ramirez-Portilla also met with us. He has been involved from the beginning bringing Rotaplast to Guatemala starting 17 years ago. It took a few years to get the first mission off the ground, but finally the first Rotaplast medical mission went to Guatemala 15 years ago. Indeed, this mission is the 15th to go to Guatemala.
Carlos told us that over the last 15 years 1,527 people had been helped with surgeries that transformed their lives. What an incredible number. He explained that in Guatemala, the parents will sometimes hide their children if they are born with a cleft lip or palate because the parents believe God is punishing them. The surgeries performed by the Rotaplast volunteers, not only transform the lives of the patient, but the family as well.
Twenty-four volunteers (one still on her way) started out on our 5 hour bus ride in this vintage bus with lots a character that got us to our destination safe and sound.
Now, we are preparing for tomorrow and opening the clinic. All reports are that there will be a lot of potential patients. So we are gearing up.