The Joy of Encounter
Solidarity Bridge is committed to bringing high-complexity surgery and other health care to underserved areas in Bolivia, especially to patients who live in remote, rural areas.
Mostly, our work to train and equip our Bolivian partners and provide urgently needed medical treatment takes place in hospital and clinical settings. But almost every patient we serve also receives a home visit by one of our dedicated Bolivian social workers, to ensure medical resources are channeled to those with great financial need. In addition, sometimes our missioners have the privilege of visiting patients in their homes.
Along with the hospitality that runs deep in Bolivian culture, such encounters can highlight the daunting impact of systems of inequality and poverty on our brothers and sisters. Home visits also offer the possibility to build bridges of solidarity—like the day Esperanza met Kim.
Esperanza, a grandmother in her 70s, lived with her daughter in the rural municipality of Tacachi, southwest of Cochabamba. Months after having a stroke, Esperanza still struggled to walk, stand, and get up from a chair. Physical therapy services were available locally, but the family could not afford taxi fare to the clinic and Esperanza had grown increasingly isolated and depressed at home.
Worried about her physical and mental health, another daughter sought help at the municipal hospital in Punata. In response, members of a Solidarity Bridge multi-specialty mission team, including physical therapist Kim Stover, traveled to Esperanza’s home.
Kim provided an assessment and showed Esperanza and her family physical therapy exercises that would aid her recovery. Father Bob Oldershaw, a ten-time missioner and chaplain, offered spiritual support. The family—including Esperanza’s kids and grandkids—shared sodas and snacks from the small stand they operated in the front of the house.
Most of all, the visit encouraged Esperanza and her family to remember they were not alone. “It’s a way of touching each others’ lives,” says Kim, reflecting on the connection made that day. “I’m grateful to Solidarity Bridge for the experience, but I’m also grateful for the relationships we form with our partners and with the patients we meet in Bolivia.”
Healing rarely happens in a single day, but that afternoon, Kim and Esperanza experienced the joy of encounter. Throughout the year, home visits are a privilege that remind us we are one human family, connected to each other through ties both visible and invisible.