My oh my. We arrived to Benin on Thursday, August 18th, and it's been nonstop since then. That Monday, we began screening for patients. The short of it is, thousands of people line up to be seen, our group of wonderful screening nurses assess whether or not we can help them, and, if chosen, are scheduled for a screening with their respective surgeon. However, because we have concentrated medical specializations, we have to turn a lot of people away. For me, that's been the hardest part - and I'm not even the one handing out the no's.
I realize the desperate need for adequate health care here. Thousands lined up, pushed their way to be seen, just to be told "no." It was quite a sobering experience.
"How can I stick a camera in their face?" I kept telling myself. After a few days of waking up at the crack of dawn to work the screening lines, I couldn't quite hold it together anymore. I headed to the break room, and had the cry I've been needing since day one.
In order to cope, I started focusing on the patients that we could help rather than the ones we couldn't. We're helping thousands of people who now have a chance at a new life and new hope.
See, what I realized is the stories of the patients and this organization need to be told. I recall the videos and photos I watched that impacted me to volunteer in the first place; if it weren't for these resources, people wouldn't know the amazing work Mercy Ships does to provide surgeries at no cost to those receiving help.
After a period of time in the breakroom, I reminded myself why I've been wanting to do this for four years. To tell the stories that need to be heard. To be a light using my gifts in any which way possible. To see the children's smiles whenever I turn the camera so they can see themselves on the screen.