Solidarity Bridge's Mara O'Brien has shared her final reflections from the Multi-Specialty Mission Trip to Coroico, Bolivia: It is 11:15am and I am on the first of two flights back to Chicago from Bolivia. Much awaits me upon my return. But once again my emotions are torn. I am eager for the day to go by quickly to arrive home to my family, but I already miss Bolivia. Bolivia has been part of me for almost twenty years and this mission trip reminded me why I admire Bolivians so much.

Each of us arrived with a unique inner calling, but we all are leaving changed. Some missioners spent entire days inside the operating rooms and barely saw the light of day. Many had the common Bolivian stomach bug and almost all missioners ate quick meals so they could treat a couple more patients with the extra time, but no one complained. We were grateful to be there.

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Meanwhile, outside the clinic and operating rooms, other scenes played out. Bolivian families and friends waited patiently for their turn to see the doctors. Local street vendors sold food, the favorite being the ice cream man. Hospital workers dashed around the hospital, working feverishly to keep up with the influx of patients brought about by our visit. Fr. Bob passed out rosaries to curious and smiling families. Women offered to smile for the camera. Numerous children played simple games using whatever they could find – bottle caps, rocks, an orange turned into a ball. Patients waited for hours or days, but no one complained. They were grateful to be there.

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As we return to the U.S., each of us will retain touching mission moments. The Bolivians opened their hearts and shared their innermost struggles, sometimes for the first time. Doctors, interpreters, nurses, and Fr. Bob listened carefully, while comforting and medically attending. Each of us was welcomed and appreciated. “Gracias” was heard everywhere, but each time I heard it, I wanted to say, “Gracias a usted.” Thanks to YOU for welcoming us to Bolivia and sharing your country, your culture, and your life with us. The solidarity that we feel will return with us to the U.S. and I pray that this experience will continue to shape and transform us in the days, months and years ahead. We are blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know you and your Bolivia! THANK YOU.

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