Learning by Doing

Above photo (from left): Solidarity Bridge founder Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa
with social work interns Franz López and Patricia Bautista, fall 2017.

Written by Betsy Station

As we begin our 18th year, Solidarity Bridge remains committed to delivering life-changing medical assistance to people in need. As an organization rooted in the Catholic faith, we also understand that there is more to healing than simply providing an operation.

Through each of our four surgical programs, we strive to ensure that every patient receives holistic care and accompaniment. Because we partner locally with Puente de Solidaridad (PdS) and their team of social workers, we can offer true solidarity to patients and families in the face of complex medical challenges.

Two Bolivian social work students, Franz Lopez and Patricia “Paty” Bautista, deepened their understanding of this work as interns with PdS in late 2017. Both Paty, 25, and Franz, 23, are in their final year of studies at the Universidad Mayor de San Simón in Cochabamba, where the social work program includes community-based learning experiences.

Supervised by Marizol Mamani, a veteran social worker on the PdS staff, Paty and Franz undertook several important projects. To spread the word about the 2017 Gynecologic Surgery Mission Trip prior to the team’s arrival in Tiquipaya, the social work interns visited more than 20 sites around the region, including health centers, schools, and public markets. Paty and Franz distributed fliers and spoke with health workers and potential patients about the treatment that would be available during the October mission trip. Through their outreach, they helped us to serve the highest number of patients in the history of our Gynecologic Surgery mission trips.  More than 30 women were evaluated for gynecological issues and surgical treatment was provided for 17 women ranging in age from 26 to 74.

PdS social worker Marizol Mamani (far right) with Dr. Janet Tomezsko and a patient and her family member during the 2017 Gynecologic Surgery mission trip.

PdS social worker Marizol Mamani (far right) with Dr. Janet Tomezsko and a patient and her family member during the 2017 Gynecologic Surgery mission trip.

Read blogs from the 2017 Gynecologic Surgery trip.

“This was the first time I’ve worked in health care. Honestly, I really liked it a lot,” says Paty, who also accompanied PdS social workers on pre- and post-operative visits with patients. “Some of the women told me they had suffered for 10 years with their conditions … It made me feel happy to hear them say afterward that they felt well again.”

During their internship, Franz and Paty also organized a support group for parents of children who have received treatment through our Heart Surgery Program. The goal was to give parents the opportunity to meet and talk with others who understand the profound challenge of caring for a child with a life-threatening heart condition before, during, and after surgery.

Franz says the experience gave him a deeper appreciation of the difficulties that low-income families face as they balance their roles as caregivers, breadwinners, and advocates for their children’s fragile health.

For Paty, the most positive part of working with Puente de Solidaridad was “serving people who really need the help that we’re giving--people with scarce resources.” Praising his colleagues at PdS, Franz says, “They showed us solidarity and friendship and most of all, a commitment to people. We’ve learned a lot from them.”

Betsy Station is a communications and development associate at Solidarity Bridge.

The Solidarity Bridge Gynecologic Surgery Program aims to help low-income Bolivian women receive needed interventions such as hysterectomies, endometrial ablation, and bladder repair.  Through these surgeries, women who may live with discomfort or debility to the degree that it limits their daily activities can enjoy restored quality of life and productive capacities. This, in turn, maintains the welfare of their families and the larger community. The program works in partnership with Bolivian gynecologists, training them in novel techniques and outfitting them with the latest instruments and equipment donated by our corporate and individual supporters.