I would like to share with you a profound professional and personal experience I recently had the chance to take part in.
Since I was a teenager, I have dreamed of working in a humanitarian project. The opportunity for this dream to become true arrived this year.
The CEO, Collège d’Études Ostéopathiques of Montreal, organizes a volunteering mission in Peru twice a year. This year was the 15th session.
A group of 15 osteopaths arrived from all over the world in Arequipa to work for two weeks. The group was split in two, and the majority of us were settled in Arequipa, while the others went in Camana, a town close to the ocean. I remained in Arequipa the entire time. Our clinic was located in a big room generously offered by a volunteer, Amparo. This lady not only opened her house to host the patients and us, but she also offered all of her self to us, making sure we were well-fed and settling in fully. In fact, she gave us a Tai Chi session every morning in her garden before we started working. After the breakfast meeting and the Tai Chi class the osteopaths settled in Arequipa were split again into two or more groups. Part of us stayed at the clinic and some of us were sent in different centers around the city.
We had the pleasure to work in a Rehabilitation Center, COFARI, where we treated mostly kids with neurological diseases, as well as cerebral palsies of different types, and genetic diseases. I realized that most of the kids were severely damaged during labor. As osteopaths we could never underline enough the importance of a good pregnancy, a good labor and of the early years. To give an example, we saw a major cerebral palsy case due to a complicated labor. The mum of this kid was giving birth in a room with other two ladies. One of them died and she was so traumatized when the family of the dead lady entered the delivery room to kill the doctor, that her own delivery was stopped by the fear. The baby, compressed in the vaginal canal for many hours, was severely neurologically damaged.
We went to work in a very well organized orphanage, ALDEAS, where all the kids and teenagers were healthy but they had such strong psychological traumas that the center wished to give them all the healing support they needed. The strongest experience I’ve had during my two weeks as a volunteer happened there. I treated a kid, 9 years old, abandoned for 2 days. I felt from him the most powerful, unconditional, healing love I’ve ever felt.
In the Clinic we treated a miscellaneous group of patients of all ages. We saw patients with the common complaints of low back, shoulder pain, or migraines, but I was impressed by the number of patients that came to see us after surgery and chemotherapy because of uterus, breast, prostate, or brain cancer. One of them had 4 surgeries because of brain and breast cancer, which really shocked me. She told me that she waits all year to see us, because she can walk better and she feels so much better in general that she can keep working for a long time after an osteopathic treatment. A lot of them were coming from far away, driving for 5 to 9 hours just to get a treatment. I felt so important, but in the same time, aware that we couldn’t see them again, I felt like I couldn’t meet their expectations. On the other hand, the patients come in without asking questions because they received a “miracolous” treatment the year before, or they heard from others that our work really helps.
I tried to give all of myself.
The experience was intense, emotionally strong and professionally relevant. We received a lot of gratitude from the Peruvian patients that I couldn’t have expected, considering also the language barrier. I felt enriched from this experience, as we saw such a quantity and a different type of patients than we are used to see in our clinics back home, that we wouldn’t have been able to collect even in a full year of hard work.
The colleagues I had the privilege to work with made me feel immersed even more in a positive, “giving” atmosphere.
I want to thank Nadia Todoroff, and the CEO, Amparo, Anna Maria and all the Peruvian volunteers that supported us in different ways,the specialized centers, all my colleagues, and, first of all, all the patients that sincerely trusted us.
There is no doubt that I will participate again in an experience like this in the future, but at the same time, I also hope to take part in some scientific research to give our job more official validity.