This past June I had the privilege of working as a medical translator for Global Health Ministry´s mission in Chulucanas, Peru. Translating was a challenging but rewarding experience.
Throughout the two weeks of the medical campaign, I translated for the same pediatrician. Day after day, we saw lots and lots of sick kids together, and we formed a very special bond.
She mentioned to me that this was her third campaign. When I asked her about her first experience abroad, she said, “To be honest, it took me most of the two weeks to decide that I would do it again.” When I asked her why, she said, “Well, I suppose that I was incredibly ignorant, and kind of thinking that I was just such a nice person, and going to save the world or something like that. And then for two weeks all I treated or saw was worms, worms, and worms. You know, what the surgery team does- that really fixes something. I would like to be able to do that.”
Throughout the week, I had been inspired by this pediatrician. She had used her vacation time and her own money to come to Chulucanas on this mission, and even with my limited medical background, it was obvious to me that she was an excellent practitioner.
At different times, my community members and I have discussed our common sentiment of not feeling useful enough in our service here in Peru. Although we are all grateful for our jobs and the good that they do, we see the huge needs that exist and wish that we could do more.
My conversation with this pediatrician made me realize that no one, not even the most accomplished of doctors, has the privilege of seeing or totally understanding the final product of their service.
Yet, although prescribing worm medication is not nearly as dramatic as providing a cleft lip surgery, freeing a child from parasites does substantially affect his day-to-day reality.
For me, this moment I shared with the pediatrician held the lesson that as volunteers or professionals, all of us will sometimes wonder whether we are truly making a difference. However, if we continue doing “the next right thing,” to the best of our abilities, we have good reason to be hopeful. Mother Teresa’s wise observation on the significance and limitations of our service is especially pertinent in light of this year: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
Chulucanas, Peru 2015