We make a difference...
If you tell me, I'll forget.
If you show me, I may remember.
If you involve me, I'll understand.
And when I understand, I do things differently.
Each year, the LAUGHH team embarks on a health and wellness mission to Santander, Colombia. For one week, volunteers from all over the world come together to provide medical support and education to rural towns outside Bucaramanga, Colombia.
On our second trip, we were joined by 6 medical students from Colombia. In 2019, we were joined by 28 medical students from 7 different schools! There are so many volunteers now, they must apply to go, be interviewed, and be chosen to be part of the team. These medical students join us to translate, to learn, and to help with our major education program. In 2015, a medical student (who is now a doctor and is still a volunteer) said:
"In medical school we learn to practice medicine. Here we learn to practice medicine with a heart! This is changing who we will be as doctors!"
Our missions take a team of 80 volunteers from all over the world, to the Andes Mountains to work together in caring for 1500+ patients. Led by Gisella Alvarez, Clinical Coordinator and Dr. Bruce Sands, Medical Director, we offer primary medical care including internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, optometry, physical therapy, wound care, nursing and laboratory tests along with fluoride treatments for the kids.
We are joined on each mission with local Physical Therapy volunteers who examine and assess patients, giving wheelchairs, canes, walkers, etc. as needed. They help patients with exercises and advice. Local Optometry volunteers come to give eye exams, measure for glasses, and give readers to people who need them. After the mission, these folks return to hand out the glasses. Our excellent Colombian optometry team provides 400 eye examinations and 300 pair of prescription glasses to children and young adults.
We partner with the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at the University of Kansas Medical Center to create and deliver meaningful knowledge of nutrition and exercise to ensure that the patients get tools that can be used right away in making necessary changes in their lives, based on their history and current diagnoses. This is especially important with the increase in Type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension seen in this population.
Education and encouragement have helped a community build community gardens for the school children. These children grow the vegetables for their families, and have even built gardens at their homes. Classes on how to cook the vegetables have given the children an opportunity to have a positive effect on the health of their families. Involvement of the teachers in the school has increased the health and fitness of the children through exercise and proper nutrition. In this community, drug use and crime are on the decline since the start of this project.
We are teaching women to take care of their own bodies, including how to do self breast examinations. In the last few years, the medical students have done sex education for those patients between the ages of 13 and 22!
Our education has shown to have a major affect on the people we encounter. We have experienced sustainability through our involvement with the people.
We are a great team making a major difference in the lives of these patients.