Ripples of Hope - Nurses Sharing Resources Worldwide
Mary Dowling, RN
Click here to see the article on the Nursing Matters web site.
This article originally appeared on the Nursing Matters Website. Reprinted with permission.
In June 1990, I took my first trip outside of the United States. I was not alone. I was returning our foster child to his family in Panama City, Panama. Saul had lived with us for five months while undergoing treatment and surgery for a severe heart defect that nearly prevented him from reaching his first birthday.
Saul was brought to the U.S. by the Wisconsin chapter of a very special medical-aid program. He arrived in our home just one month after the U.S. had invaded Panama, deposed its leader Manuel Noriega, and brought him to a prison in the States. Saulís family agreed to send their baby to Wisconsin because no one in Panama could fix his heart. At eight months, Saul weighed just nine pounds and could eat and drink only small amounts at a time. He seemed to be all eyes. Of course, we fell in love with him immediately, as usually happens with foster babies. We had been caring for babies since 1980. Because I was an RN and worked part time, this worked well for our family. As his stateside mom, I often considered how difficult Saulís absence must be for his mother in Panama, with whom we communicated as best we could.
After several weeks in our home, Saul was sufficiently plumped up and free of infection to undergo surgery, after which he spent several weeks in the hospital. After he returned to our home to heal and grow, he truly blossomed, so that by his first birthday in June, he weighed 15 pounds! We were very excited by his improved health and growth, but also knew it was time for him to return to his family. I needed to meet his family, so I took him home in July. His mother told me what it had been like for her and the family to send him. We formed a bond that would last a lifetime. Caring for Saul and getting to know his family was an experience that would forever change my life. It also changed the lives of my children, a change which became more evident as time went on.
Since that time, we have cared for six other children from other countries, while they received medical care in Wisconsin. I began volunteering for an organization that sponsored medical missions to countries where the need is great. In March 2005, I completed my 25th medical mission since 1993. The last several of those have been sponsored by Sharing Resources Worldwide (SRW), an organization I co-founded in 2002.
As an RN, I feel very privileged to organize and take part in these missions. Recruiting local people is always a pleasure, filled with rewards. There are many qualified professionals who are eager to travel, share their skills, and meet people all over the world who are their partners in healing children and improving lives. As a mother and an RN, I sympathize with parents we meet in impoverished communities. Many of them have nearly given up hope of finding help for their children, who might need nothing more than a relatively simple operation or just a wheelchair. My own daughter has been in a wheelchair since she was three years old, and I know what itís like to be without those wheels for even one day. I canít quite imagine how it must feel to have no hope of ever obtaining a wheelchair for your child with C.P. or a mylomeningocele!
In 2002, when my friend, Lisa, and I formed Sharing Resources Worldwide, we knew we could offer hope, health, dignity, and independence to children and families around the world, through the programs SRW would offer. We had found resources here in Wisconsin to share with a needy world; and with the help of our board members, friends, families, volunteers and a far-reaching network of foreign contacts, we are getting those resources out. We may not be making a huge splash, but we are creating ripples of hope. Every time we help a child, we help his family. We enable his mother to work and provide income to improve his life. We help his school and other students by empowering that child to attend class without fear of ridicule. We help his neighborhood, his village and his country.
Basic medical supplies, like sterile gloves, suture, and catheters, are only a dream in some parts of the world, but such simple tools do save lives. A walker or wheelchair offers hope for someone with a bright mind but no mobility, trapped in a room that offers no stimulation or social opportunities. Eyeglasses provided by an SRW mission team can restore more than the sight needed for reading and performing daily activities; they can give the recipient independence and a whole new outlook on life. The surgeons and nurses on our mission teams - sharing skills, tools, and friendship with their counterparts in other countries - bring great benefits but also receive rewards on many levels.
Sharing Resources Worldwide demonstrates the good will of Americans that would otherwise be unknown in many countries. Ours is a people-to-people mission that crosses language barriers, culture gaps, oceans and continents.
Please note our new mailing address:
Sharing Resources Worldwide
2405 Industrial Drive
Madison, WI 53713
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