On the Campaign Trail

Written by Betsy Station

When we hear the word “campaign” in English, we often think of politics, but the term has a different meaning for Puente de Solidaridad (PdS), our partner organization in Bolivia.

A campaign or campaña is a focused effort to provide a specific type of medical care to a large number of patients in a short period of time, especially in rural areas with limited access to medical services.

Just as Solidarity Bridge missioners are invited to Bolivia to provide medical care and training, PdS regularly sends Bolivian teams out to hospitals around the country. Through 3-7 day campaigns, these Bolivian teams join with local medical professionals to offer surgery and other health care, and sometimes training and equipment.

Maria Ines Uriona, coordinator of medical programs and lead social worker from Puente de Solidaridad (left), meets with a patient before her surgery in Mizque. 

Maria Ines Uriona, coordinator of medical programs and lead social worker from Puente de Solidaridad (left), meets with a patient before her surgery in Mizque. 

In the past four months, PdS organized four laparoscopic surgery campaigns at regional hospitals around the department of Cochabamba: in the towns of Punata (April), Ivirgarzama (May), Mizque (June), and Tiquipaya (July). Each five-day effort served an average of 14 patients, mainly with gallbladder and hernia surgeries. Most patients had put off treatment because of their economic situation. Along with attending medical staff, PdS social workers and chaplains played an important role, offering support, friendship, and pastoral care to patients and their families.

Also in May, during a campaign in the city of Santa Cruz, PdS and its partner surgeons in turn partnered with the “Francés” Municipal Hospital and two other institutions to offer a seminar on laparoscopic surgery techniques. More than 180 doctors, residents, nurses, and students participated.

Doctors discuss the patient's chart

Campaigns not only improve the quality of life for patients in need—the experiences also help PdS social workers and Bolivian partner doctors to better understand the daily reality at rural Bolivian hospitals and to reinforce bonds that can lead to continued collaboration.

Upon finishing up a week of surgeries and training in the town of Tiquipaya, the PdS team reflected on the power of solidarity, quoting the poet José Martí:

“Helping those in need isn’t only part of our duty—it’s part of our happiness.”

Betsy Station serves as development and communications associate at Solidarity Bridge.

These campaigns are part of the Solidarity Bridge General Surgery Program providing year-round service to patients in need and delivering vital supplies and training to advance the skills of local medical providers. Solidarity Bridge and Puente de Solidaridad are grateful to the following partners for their hospitality, organizational support, and shared commitment during the campaigns and training seminar described above: Dr. Manuel Ascencio Villarroel Hospital (Punata); Hospital Central (Ivirgarzama); Augusto Morales Asua Hospital (Mizque); Hospital Municipal Materno Infantil (Tiquipaya); Hospital Muncipal Francés, Colegio Médico Departamental Santa Cruz, Sociedad Boliviana de Cirugía Capítulo Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz).