I went on my first mission trip to Puerto Rico when I was 15 years old. I wasn’t exactly sure why I wanted to go but I knew I needed to. We worked on repairing a house for one of the local Pastor’s. They lived on top of a mountain and in an area that was constantly hit by hurricanes. We roofed, painted, tiled, built new furniture, distributed clothes to local children, and anything else we could do just to make things a little nicer. The city of San Juan was having a water shortage at the time and shut off all out going water. So for most of the trip we had to hike down the mountain with buckets, fill them from the river, carry them back up, and boil the water so we could use it. As traumatic as that was to my 15 year old self, it sure was memorable. I knew I had it easy in America. I’ve always had running water when I turned the sink on. I’ve never gone a day hungry or without a roof over my head. I kept a detailed account of that trip that I still have on my book shelf. I may have written it like a science log, but really were you expecting anything less from me? I’m a big science nerd. So every minute of everyday, who was doing what is recorded. There’s a couple funny stories about cows being in the road and the search for peanut butter in Spanish.
Once I decided I wanted to be a doctor I knew medical missions would be part of my career. I was in the middle of the application cycle to medical school. During my interview day at VCOM I sat down with Dr. Cacioppo (aka Dr. Joe)– the Director of Medical Missions. Dr. Joe and I chatted about the various mission work I had already been on. He told me about the trips he had planned for the students and when we would get the chance to travel. They had plans to set up clinics for 3rd and 4th year electives and trips during the breaks between 1st and 2nd year. He started listing countries… Kenya, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras. Um… can I come to your school right now? I did have to wait a few weeks for my acceptance letter but I truly believe that God (or the universe if you don’t believe) puts us in the right place at the right time for specific reasons.
During medical school I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya twice with Dr. Joe. We did fundraisers for months, I asked all my friends and family for donations. I raised all the money I needed to go.
On our first trip, we treated over 3,000 patients in 10 days and 1,500 patients in a week during the second trip. I treated diseases I had only read about to that point. Things that my text books reminded were not problems because of inventions such as vaccines and mosquito management.
We fed, clothed and gave medical care to orphaned street children. Even with our limited supplies and time people walked miles and waited all day to been seen in the clinic. The towns we visited welcomed us with open arms. I have never met people with so much joy who had so little. Much of who I am as a doctor was learned in the little town of Lara Njoro Kenya. I am forever grateful to these people for teaching me compassion and how to truly be a doctor.
As you are aware on January 12th at 4:53 p.m. a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit 10 miles west of Porte-au-Prince, Haiti and its 2 million inhabitants. The USGS has called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti. The quake sent 33 after shocks ranging from 4.2 to 5.9. There are now 3 million people in need of emergency aid.
I will be traveling with Dr. Joe and 3 other physicians to Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes to deliver medical care from February 15-22. You can go to any news page to see the devastation in Port-au-Prince. Les Cayes is on the southwest coast. Many of the refugees from Port-au-Prince have traveled there and are now living on the streets. We will be taking medications and supplies with us to care for as many people as we can see.
We need about $1,100 per person going to bring enough supplies with us. We are collecting money through his non-profit organization:
International Christian Resources
2008 Hardwick Street, Blacksburg VA USA 24060
Tax ID# 73 1642066
I’ve made a facebook group Send Dr. Al to Haiti to Save Lives. Every little bit helps – even $5 they can add up quickly. I am very thankful to all my friends and family who supported my mission trips in the past and I am grateful for the support I have so far for this up coming trip. If you’d like to help our cause please join our facebook group. Donations can be sent to ICR. They are tax decticuble, just write my name in the “for” box so it is designated to me. If you can’t support us financially send us happy thoughts/prayers for safety as we travel.