It was Monday afternoon and the first day of operations for the trip. I spent what seemed like hours throwing a baseball back and forth with a little boy with severe burn scars on the majority of his body awaiting surgery to correct his feet to help him walk better. Every time he threw the ball, the look on his face looked as if it was the first time he threw a baseball. He seemed to not pay any attention to the fact that he was just minutes away from surgery. After his surgery, I checked in on him frequently in post-op to make sure he was recovering well. I was not present when he was released to go back home that day and I thought about him for for the next 4 days, wondering on how he was recovering from his surgery and if he was throwing the baseball with someone else while he was recovering to pass time.
Four days had flown by and as soon as we knew it the trip was wrapping up and it was time for clinic. The day was filled with smiling faces from patients and as well as from all that were present in the room. Smiling at the children that were making them laugh, smiling at children walking into clinic wearing Kansas City Royals hats, and smiling because the week was coming to an end and the collective hard work of many people was coming to an end. As the clinic day came to a close and grateful families came and went, there were a few children that stood out that I will never forget. Their selflessness and determination combined with their extremely positive outlook on life really made you think of what an impact these medical mission trips are making on countless lives year after year, for the past 31 years.
As clinic was wrapping up, I was able to find the little boy with severe burns that I was playing catch with days before. He was on his little crutches with his Kansas City Royals hat on, making a bee line straight towards one of the Peace Corps volunteers, Jim, at the exit door. He turned around and asked his mom to get a book out of his backpack for him to show Jim something. Out she pulled a coloring book and gave it to the little boy. He stood at the exit door, leaning on his crutches showing Jim his work he had done in his kitten coloring book while he was recovering. He made it a point that he had to show Jim his kitten coloring book before he had left. It was one of the greatest experiences to witness in person from the beginning to the end, because it was such a brief and sincere moment that one could have missed if they didn’t stand there and watch.
Years from now, whenever I think back upon my first MACLA Dominican Republic trip, I will forever think of that little boy leaning on his crutches at the exit of the room, very proudly showing off his kitten coloring book.
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