In November 2006 while attending a citywide philanthropic luncheon (invited by the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work) I suddenly found myself engaged in an unbelievably energizing conversation with a woman who has a similar passion. Just like I dream of living abroad, I also found myself daydreaming, often about International Social Work. But at this particular luncheon, I was not expecting this at all. I figured, I’ll go, listening to people who are doing really amazing things, be envious of what they are doing, dream a little, eat lunch and go home. Seriously, that was my mindset. So meeting Janis was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise! Serendipity? Absolutely!
She told me the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She explained what they do to help, the people involved in these missions, and I was sold. SOLD, I say! Much like discovering that infamous shower curtain, I was ecstatic, I thought to myself, uuh damn, I just could not join them fast enough on these trips. Ran home to my husband, Jack, and told him all about it. I also told everyone else who was willing to listen.
Three months later, in February 2007, we embarked on our first 3-day weekend medical mission in an effort to provide aide to impoverished families in Mexico living in unimaginable conditions.
The woman I met is the coordinator of the “Mexico Medical Mission,” sponsored by Christ United Methodist Church of Sugar Land, Tx. This is a group of medical, dental, pharmacy, veterinary professionals and students, who travel to Mexican border towns four times a year to provide services in make-shift medical clinics.
Over the past seven years these mission teams have worked in tents, under trees, in churches, on the side of the roads, out of the backs of vans to provide needed services. These missions have served up to 500 individuals during each trip, mostly women and children.
During that first mission, both Jack and I recognized a real need for a mental health component within the team. We voiced our concerns about the need to include mental health professionals as part of our interdisciplinary travel teams which was surprisingly. but warmly welcomed.
We took this opportunity to involve Emma when we volunteer to help during the PRE- MISSION preparations. A wh0le lot of work went into preparing for the trips and we used that as an opportunity to teach Emma about why trips like these are important to our family, to the world and the people receiving the help.
And we also felt strongly about planting seeds in as many students as we possibly can. Being married to a Psychology Professor has its advantages and how about those students? Having access to over 200 students each semester, we have included nearly a dozen students (some were repeat offenders) during these incredible Service Learning opportunities
These students, mostly but not all Spanish bilinguals, learned first-hand about the effects of abject poverty and civil/global responsibilities that reached far beyond the scope of a typical classroom (or even field education experience). Some students have never even been on a plane- we find that getting them on a plane to Mexico in and of itself is an excellent learning experience.
We find joy and pride in simply planting the idea of committing more acts of kindness by these young students. The world could use more of them, yeah??