After almost 23 hours of travel, we arrived safely in Cochabamba late Thursday morning. We were a bit groggy and disoriented, so it was a tremendous relief to see the smiling faces of the staff of our local office, Puente de Solidaridad, waiting to help us. They happily took charge of our 1500 pounds of medical supplies stuffed into 35 suitcases. We made it!
But there was little time to relax. After a quick lunch and change of clothes at the hotel, we were off to the Univalle Hospital. There was nervousness in the air. This mission trip was the first time we’d be working at Univalle Hospital, located on the southern outskirts of the city. What would the hospital be like? Would there be patients waiting to be seen? Were the Bolivian doctors and nurses ready to receive us and join us in this partner journey? How equipped (or not) was the hospital? Each missioner’s head was filled with the unknown.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital, a sense of relief swept over the team. Thanks to the behind-the-scenes preparations of the hospital partners alongside our local staff, especially social worker Marisol and Executive Director Patricia, they were ready. With no time to waste, by the end of that first afternoon we had met our partner physicians and set up clinic rooms in each specialty, and screened and scheduled the (previously-identified) surgery patients for the week. We knew we were in good hands and were ready for the next morning’s launch of clinics and surgeries.
To cap an amazing first day in Cochabamba, many of the Puente de Solidaridad staff and board joined us for dinner and our mission trip opening ritual. Mission crosses were hung around our necks and candles were passed to remind us why we are here. As I reflected on the journey thus far, I was especially grateful for the year-round presence and planning we have here in Bolivia through Puente de Solidaridad. Without them we couldn’t do what we do!