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“Our patients are waiting for us,” I will never forget reading these words at the end of our last pre-Mission trip email by our mission director, Evelyn Abad.  As a general surgery resident, participating in cleft/lip palate and oral/maxillofacial surgeries was a unique opportunity.  However, even more extraordinary was my first time experience partaking in a mission trip with passionate and truly exceptional people all working together towards the same beautiful cause.  My mission trip experience in Pereira, Colombia was nothing short of life changing.  Stepping off the plane into the foreign airport, the team was greeted with big warm smiles and hugs surrounded with an air of excitement and anticipation by the Rotary members.  From there our team started a busy week of evaluating our patients, and performing over 50 operations on the local and surrounding indigenous people of Pereira, Colombia.

I had the opportunity of scrubbing into cases with all of the four surgeons that were part of the mission.  With their patience and support, I was able to learn both decision-making and new operative skills.   At our post-operative clinic we were able to see the results of everyone’s hard work, but most touching was seeing the gratitude of our patients and their family members.  This trip will be remembered for many things; the life long friendships, the warm hospitality of the Colombian people and Rotary Club members, and of course the new smiles given to our patients.  -Sarah Park