In November of 2012 I went as a general volunteer on my first medical brigade to Ecuador with Timmy Global Health. Those days I lived in Bellevue, Washington. Across the lake from Seattle. It was to be my first visit to South America. I found out about Timmy (Global Health) from one of the posters that Andy (who works at Bing, same as me) puts up diligently every year in the different Microsoft offices to attract volunteers for the trip. I will confess the timing was particularly good for me because of certain personal reasons (crossroads and such). I was looking forward to taking some time off and get away. And so, I signed up. You expect these trips to be memorable. But it was something much more special. And so, I went back on the brigade again in 2013, 2014, and more recently in 2016.
But it was something much more special. And so, I went back on the brigade again in 2013, 2014, and more recently in 2016.
Each day on the brigade is long. You get on 3-4 open trucks, travel to a different remote village in the Amazon, and setup a day clinic for the patients. Vital check-ups, triage, doctor consultations, pharmacy — if not for the simmering heat and the occasional appearance of curiously colourful spiders, it is easy to forget that you are often tens of miles or more away from proper medical facilities. Timmy conducts these medical brigades at every site at a regular rhythm to maintain continuity of care. And even though I’ve been on at most one brigade per year — I could still see many familiar faces come back and sense the difference the organization was making in these people’s lives.
Something that struck me the most was the kindness that I sensed in everyone around — be it the patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, or volunteers. Whether it was someone in pain or giving care — I always spotted a kind smile on everyone’s face. The kids still laughed and were as mischievous as all kids should. Among these special people I truly felt an awesome sense of belonging — thousands of miles out of my comfort zone. Some of these people I met on these trips have turned into familial bonds — people I have visited in a different country and called up when I needed to talk to someone. These are special people and I am grateful for knowing them. But most of all Ecuador taught me courage. To step out of my comfort zone. I loved my comfort zone as much as the next person but that first trip in 2012 changed that a bit for me.
These are special people and I am grateful for knowing them.
Coincidentally, now in 2017 — in less than three months from now — I am about to embark on another adventure. I am going to be one of the crew aboard the “Visit Seattle” boat that will race against eleven other boats in the Clipper race across the Atlantic Ocean from the United Kingdom (where I live now) to Uruguay in South America.
Deep down I truly believe that if I hadn’t taken that first flight from Seattle to Quito in 2012, I wouldn’t be taking part in this race. It is fair to say that life is full of beautiful coincidences that I now get to represent the “Visit Seattle” crew to race towards South America. It is only befitting that I use this opportunity to raise awareness and support for Timmy’s mission in the continent to make basic health care available to those who need it the most. I have setup a CrowdRise page which I sincerely encourage you to visit and make whatever small donation you can. 100% of all the money raised will go to Timmy Global Health directly (and NONE to fund my race).
With that said, I look forward to those of you from my Ecuadorian family who are planning to come see me off at the race start in Liverpool. And the rest of you I hope to see again in November of this year in Ecuador.
May the wind always fill your sails!