I recently returned from a medical mission trip to Haiti with the Haiti Austin InterVol team. During my time there, I was surprised by many things. Haitians still have such limited access to the basics — clean water, trash service, and medical care. However, they remain proud of their culture. Despite the crumbled buildings, there is bright color and art in Haiti.
I was also surprised by the number of people that give of their time and expertise, seven years after the earthquake. Almost our entire airplane consisted of volunteers. This makes an impact, not only to Haiti but to those participating in the trip.
My 16-year-old daughter, who also participated in the trip, was amazed at all she saw. She went on the trip primarily for humanitarian reasons, but, after seeing the medical side of things, she is now considering medical school.
Coming home from this trip made me thankful for all I have, but also allowed me to better understand those who are without. Those who are without are not always those who want material things or even a completely changed life; they are graciously accepting of their situation. They are willing to accept help, but they do not rely on it. They are not willing to change themselves in a way that would compromise who they are to get help. If they could not be Haitian in order to get help, I am sure most would refuse. Their pride in their country and in their families shows through. They are not apologetic for not having, just graceful about receiving. Yet they are the givers, as well. They have given the team who came to help them an understanding of how to be happy in any moment, how to see beauty in ruins, and how to accept help without giving up one’s pride.
If you have never gone on a medical mission trip, you should consider it. It’s not just about giving back, but about receiving insight — some of which you would never imagine you would get. It is a life-changing experience that I will never forget.
Karen Stierman, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Otolaryngology
Founder ENT and Allergy Center of Austin