Written by: Megan Kennedy-Farrell and Rocio Mendez-Rozo
“We invite you to ground yourself in our reality.” With these words, our partners at Puente de Solidaridad welcomed our mission team to Bolivia. As part of a dynamic opening reflection, we were invited to take a piece of clay, formed from the soil here in Punata, and consider what it might mean to immerse ourselves in this beautiful town in the heart of Bolivia. As we dug our fingers into the moist and rocky dirt, we each molded our clay, creating symbols of our commitment to action.
Since that moment of welcome on Saturday evening, our mission team has had the opportunity to begin to place ourselves within our Bolivian context. We listened to the hopes and struggles of past patients through their personal stories. We rejoiced as we experienced the vibrant street celebration of the Feast of the Archangels. We walked under the afternoon sun through the town of Punata, enticed by the colorful market stands. We were welcomed into the home of a Bolivian family where we feasted on traditional foods, gathered around a piano and guitar, and swapped stories. It is a tremendous privilege to be invited into another’s life – into another’s reality in this way!
In the words of Patricia Vargas, Executive Director of Puente de Solidaridad, “Our reality is diverse and complicated.” Our team has only begun to glimpse the richness of the Bolivian culture and landscape and the immense struggles that come with deep poverty and inadequate access to health care. Today, we will deepen our immersion as we begin to care for patients in the hospital and clinics alongside our Bolivian medical partners.
Please continue to journey with us this week. You, too, are invited to ground yourself in the diverse reality of Bolivia as we work together, across our bridge, to mold something new.
The 2017 Multi-Specialty Mission Trip takes place September 29 to October 8, 2017, in Punata, Bolivia. The team is comprised of a general surgery operating team, clinical physicians in cardiology, gynecology, pediatrics, family medicine and dermatology, and a physical therapist. US missioners will work alongside their Bolivian colleagues to provide care to hundreds of patients in need.
Rocio Mendez-Rozo is the Operations Coordinator at Solidarity Bridge. She is on her first mission trip, serving as an interpreter.
Megan Kennedy-Farrell is the Senior Director for Mission & Identity at Solidarity Bridge. She is on her second mission trip, serving as team chaplain and communications coordinator.