Union College students Katie Buxton and Logan Kennedy joined a group of 53 volunteers for a week-long medical mission trip organized by Global Health Initiatives of Denver. Both students were excited about going on this trip, yet they had concerns about raising the $4,400, explained Kim Kennedy, development officer at Centura Global Health Initiatives.
Within less than two months, though, both students were fully funded. “I was amazed at how quickly all the money was raised,” said Buxton. “It was clear God was calling me to be a part of something much bigger than myself.”
The group was divided into teams focused on four different areas of service: donor administration, surgical, community health and community service. Buxton and Kennedy were placed in the community service team, where they worked on a school project in the village of Sinchicuy, Peru.
They helped with an art program and a soccer camp for nearly 90 students from grades 1-12. “The children attending the school had very little, so being able to provide them with supplies is a memory I will not forget,” said Kennedy.
Working in a fifth-sixth grade classroom gave Buxton and Kennedy the opportunity to build relationships with the children. They admitted the first few days were difficult because of the language barrier, but it didn’t take long for the students to warm up to them. “This mission trip was different than others I have been on because I was placed in a setting where I was allowed to take time and spend a few days with the kids to connect on a personal level, and that was an amazing experience,” said Kennedy.
Buxton added, “Being with the children and seeing them so excited to show us their community garden, introduce us to their village monkey, have us help them with various art projects and sing songs with them strengthened our connection. It was amazing how I went into the mission trip to help make a difference in other people’s lives, but just being with those kids for a short amount of time left an impact on me.”
The team also visited a nearby school for special needs children. The village people expected a medical clinic to be set up on site. “This was a misunderstanding,” Kim Kennedy explained. When the team arrived, about 50 kids were lined up with their parents to receive help, but there was no medicine and only one doctor available.
To help distract the children, Buxton and Kennedy took time to color with them in coloring books they brought. For Buxton, this simple gesture meant so much more. As she sat next to a little girl with Downs syndrome who had a huge smile on her face, she noticed the young girl had puss oozing out of her ears.
“That’s when everything clicked for me and I realized why I was there. These kids barely have anything. They’re struggling to get through life and dealing with medical issues, yet they find so much joy in little things like coloring. This taught me a lesson that will stick with me forever,” said Buxton.
Global Health Initiatives works to make a difference in remote areas around the world. Each year they take 10 mission trips to Nepal, Peru and Rwanda, and are currently working to expand their healthcare mission to other countries.
If you would like to get involved or find out more, contact, Kim Kennedy at KimberlyKennedy@centura.org.
Alaysha Harris is a Union College student and worked as a communication intern at the Rocky Mountain Conference last summer.