Going on a volunteer trip was something I always wanted to do. I finally got the opportunity to head down to the Dominican Republic last year on a medical mission with MACLA. For the entire week, I photographed this organization to showcase what they do and how they help. I was able to go down again for my second year and want to share with you all what this organization does!
What is MACLA?
MACLA (Medical Aid for Children of Latin America) is an amazing organization of doctors and nurses that provide medical attention to patients who are unable to afford it.
What do they do?
The medical professionals with MACLA treat patients with physical deformities, cleft palates, cleft lips and burn scars. MACLA has been sending teams to the DR since 1985 and have performed thousands of surgeries.
The MACLA volunteers also work with Peace Corp volunteers to translate people’s needs, concerns and treatments.
On the first day, families are lined up waiting to see the doctors before they’ve even gotten to the hospital. Some people have traveled several hours to get there.
Potential patients are looked at and evaluated by the medical professionals.
The following four days are packed with surgeries and the doctors and nurses work round the clock to see as many people as they can. On the last day, patients return to have bandaged changed and a general follow-up post surgery.
Why it matters
Physical deformities, such as extra toes and fingers, are very common in the Dominican Republic, as are cleft palates/lips and burn scars. In the DR, many people can’t afford health care, let alone surgery, and go years untreated. In this culture, people with deformities have a hard time integrating into society and may never be able to get a job or get married. MACLA provides these surgeries for free, giving people access to the help they need.
It was my first time in Santo Domingo, my first time on a mission trip and my first time really seeing what medical professionals do. It truly was amazing to see what they can do for people.
Since I was taking a lot of before and after photos, I was able to hear some of the stories and testimonials from people.
My first year, a little girl came in with her dad because they wanted to say ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ and to show the doctors the outcome. The little girl was born with a mass on her mouth which the doctors removed years ago. Today she is a sweet girl who had a very impactful surgery.
This year, a woman was unable to come on the first day with her baby. She talked to the Peace Corp volunteers about getting on the stand-by list throughout the week and they told her they would call if there was an opening. She said she would show up to the hospital regardless in case something changed. They assured her she did not need to come every day and that they would call. She showed up the first day and waited all day, but no opening became available. The second day, there were cancellations and when we looked for her, she was not there, but when they called, she was already driving to the hospital for that day. Her perseverance paid off and her baby got the surgery. She cried when I showed her the picture and was so happy that she gave everyone hugs.
Those are only two stories that I witnessed personally but there were many sweet moments, tears of thanks and hugs. Right away, you can see how much of a difference this mission is making.
Here are some of my favorite photos:
One of my favorite moments. Splints were made for his animals too and this boy was so excited!
How can you help?
Click HERE to find out more about this organization and donate directly to MACLA.