Medical Volunteer Opportunities Abroad

“Set good little perfect things around you, you Higher Men! Things whose golden ripeness heals the heart. Perfect things teach hope.”- Nietzsche

Yesterday was a good day. This day was spent sitting tucked away, un-showered and in dirty clothes from a lack of water on the boat, in the managers’ apartments of the Royal Caribbean Cruise ship’s dock in Labadee with a mountain of laundry to do, my Blackberry to email with, and my IPOD to distract my mind.

For the first time in many months the only noises around me were the gentle hum of the dryer and the agitation of a washing machine- the beauty of silence after the constant din of life aboard the boat. As the sights of what we have seen while here rattled around my mind and my hands were busy clicking away on my phone readying us for Panama heads started to pop into the laundry room to see what this girl and her dog were doing here with piles of dirty clothes.

The hours wore on, familiarity deepened, and the smiles I received turned into, “is there anything that you need?”

Bottled sparkling water appeared with a smile from their very busy site manager Dave. Philip sat with me in the hot room for an hour, filling me in on the time he'd spent in Panama. Conversations were interrupted with their daily to do’s, but still I was never alone for long.

The evening brought me a chilled bottle of Chardonnay with wine glasses delicately laid out on a dirty hot water heater from their chief engineer Nicola—it is curious what finds its way to you in this world. I am coming from a life where white linen end tables dressed in polished glasses and spotless silverware never crossed my mind as anything special, and yet here in a quiet cove on Haiti’s desolate North Coast a dusty water heater adorned with glassware  and an open wine bottle was beautiful.

As the night deepened, Noah and Ben joined me and soon after Peter, the assistant site manager, who sat with us for hours as we spoke of Haiti, destruction, rebirth, and everything in between. From across a small bay it was as if two worlds collided, one of the bounty of a cruise ship and the other the scantiness of a new non-profit, yet, as I have found often with this project, no walls were present. In the end it was just people from all over the world coming together for a laugh, a glass of wine, bits of the philosophy of life and a shared belief that what we are doing here matters. For me it was one of those jewel covered days that I will tuck away into the treasure chest of my mind… a day where people took the time to stop and exchange a piece of themselves with a seemingly latch key girl and her dog.

Today, almost one year to the day that we left the shores of Miami headed to Haiti for the first time, I am in awe- not of what we have been able to accomplish but rather for the countless times that people have stopped and given of themselves to us.

For the people who have nothing material to give but who see the beauty and value of what Noah calls the ‘economy of the heart’- the exchange that lays not within the confines of a dollar but in the splendor of one’s self.

For the Haitian brothers that took eight of us and our equipment eleven miles up the coast to a remote village to treat the children at a desolate school for nothing but the gas to fill their engine.

For Dan at Direct Relief International whose faith in us and our project is never ending, whose kindness and support is felt in every email I open, and whose encouragement gets me through even the most challenging parts of the shipping processes.

For a nameless sailor that showed up at our boat one night with a gallon container filled with vodka/redbull and enough money to buy the much needed fire extinguishers for the boat—he stayed only long enough to hand over his wares and tell us that what we are doing is inspiring to him and his crew.

For Dennis and Jeanette, who looked at Ben and his dream and said yes. With no money to give,  they gave what they had poured 27 years of love into, what they had built much with their own hands, what they had hoped to sail on once again, what so much of their dreams were wrapped into- The Southern Wind. They took their own dream and handed it willingly over to a new one.

And, especially, for those young kids around the Caribbean who still laugh and smile despite the pain and beatings that come their way, who will sit in a hot kitchen with me and care about my cooking lessons, who will clean our decks every day for no payment other than hot food and our company, who will laugh and dance and on rare occasions get us to do the same.

For all of these I am enriched and grateful.

The past year has changed me- it has tweaked and pulled on my soul and opened my eyes to the beauty and the pain of this world. The rawness of desperation and the splendor of kindness has uprooted the me of my past, forcing a growth that I am deeply grateful for.

I have been shown a kindness that only the exchange of love can bring. I have shared painful moments, the joys of mothers seeing the babies that grow within them, the desperation of parents with sick children, and the intimate moments that can only be brought by a crew on a boat deeply alone on a vast ocean.

I am changed. I am often scared, lonely, and overwhelmed, but I am grateful, and I am humbled to lead this beautiful life of service.

To all of those who have shared our dream with us, who have worked hard to make it happen, who have believed in us even when we barely did ourselves, thank you. Everyone, from volunteer to fellow sailor, who has given us your time,support or kind words, you share a piece of this project, and for that I am forever grateful and feel an enormous sense of responsibility to pay your kindness forward.

In the end it has been a million small acts of kindness, dedication, and love that has brought us through to serve so many.

And to Dolores- whom I have thought about on so many moments when I felt like it would be impossible to move forward- who mailed a $10 dollar check and hand written note that read- "I wish it could be more, but I pray that it adds a little wind to your sails" It did. Your note is kept tucked away in my cabin, brought out every so often to remind me that from all over the world, with no expectation of returns, people have stopped and given of themselves to a brother and sister team, an old boat, and a dream to stand up and make a difference.

Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel