We Are Family

The conviction that we belong to one human family fuels Solidarity Bridge. During the 2018 multi-specialty mission trip (MSMT), we have partnered with local Bolivian medical professionals and Puente de Solidaridad to serve hundreds of low-income patients—our brothers and sisters—at a small rural hospital in Mizque, in the department of Cochabamba.

The 2018 MSMT team included five missioners who traveled to Bolivia together with family members from the United States. They reflected earlier this week on the meaning of sharing the mission experience.

Dr. Jay Herrmann, a dermatologist from Wheaton, Illinois, joined Solidarity Bridge in Mizque for his 16th mission trip:

“For years I’ve been going on mission by myself. My family has always been supportive but it can get lonely when you hear about all the things you are missing back home. My oldest son, Andrew, went with me twice while he was in high school and he became a physician. My wife, Maureen, finally went last year after all the kids had left the nest. This year I’ve been blessed with my wife and daughter, Erin, joining me. Erin is my interpreter in the dermatology clinic and we are having a blast. I’m so thankful for such a loving, caring family who all have the missionary spirit of giving back.”

Dr. Jay Herrmann examines a patient, with Spanish language interpretation provided by his daughter, Erin Herrmann.

First-time missioner Erin Herrmann, a recent college graduate and English teacher in Coroico, Bolivia, provided translation and other support:

“Once a year for as long as I can remember, my dad would ‘go over a bridge’ to a magical and mysterious faraway land called Bolivia for a medical mission trip. When I was offered the opportunity to participate as my father’s interpreter this year, I was ecstatic. Working alongside both my father and mother, seeing them in action, and together serving the beautiful people of Mizque has exponentially grown my pride and amazement every child has for their parents. It has also brought us closer in a number of ways, and has provided eye-opening experiences we will share in our hearts for the rest of our lives.”

Dr. Maureen Herrman worked as supply coordinator for the Mizque mission:

Dr. Maureen Herrmann (right) has overseen our surgical supplies this week, here she visits with a surgical patient at his home.

“Nineteen years ago, Enrique Via-Reque approached my husband, Jay, after church and asked him if he would be willing to come to Bolivia on a medical mission as a dermatologist. First, Jay said yes; then we looked on a map to see exactly where Bolivia was! That moment changed the trajectory of our entire family’s lives. Our three children grew up watching Jay go to serve and return with a renewed outlook and perspective on life. We all learned the importance of giving back, serving those in need, and being grateful for all we have.”

Kristina Via-Reque and Dr. Enrique Via-Reque travel together on their flight to Cochabamba.

Dr. Enrique Via-Reque, Solidarity Bridge’s co-founder, served as medical director on this year’s MSMT—his 23rd mission trip:

“Having my granddaughter come on this trip as a nurse is exciting. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come on mission with Solidarity Bridge again. To have someone else in my family doing the same thing I’m doing makes it special.”

Kristina Via-Reque, a pediatric ICU nurse living in Omaha, Nebraska, was a first-time missioner:

Nurse Kristina Via-Reque joined Solidarity Bridge on her first mission trip.

“Ever since I entered the medical field, I have had the dream of going on medical mission trips. As a registered nurse with a year and a half experience under my belt, I was ready to start doing research to travel with an organization. I had grown up hearing about my abuelito’s trips to Bolivia with Solidarity Bridge and have always deeply admired him for his dedication and altruism. It was an easy decision to travel with Solidarity Bridge and I felt comfort in knowing I would have family with me on my very first mission trip. In Mizque together, my grandpa and I have bonded over our love for medicine. And I have learned that he is not the only family I am lucky enough to have on this trip. After spending time with the mission team, both Bolivians and Americans, I feel like I have found an even bigger family.”

The 2018 Multi-Specialty Mission Trip took place September 28 to October 7, 2018, in Mizque, Bolivia. The team included a general surgery operating team, clinical physicians in cardiology, gynecology, pediatrics, family medicine and dermatology, and a physical therapist. US missioners worked alongside their Bolivian colleagues to provide care to hundreds of patients in need.