MMFC Executive Director Sonia Pasters began her journey at MMFC as a volunteer in 2004. She has traveled on numerous missions during the last five years. Under her auspices, MMFC has significantly expanded its programs and deepened its impact on the global communities it serves. The number of annual missions has grown from 5 to 11-13. MMFC now has an established administrative office and medical storage space in Woburn, MA, with full time staff. Sonia lives with her husband, Erik and their two boys, Evan, age 2 and Gaven, age 1, in Westford, Massachusetts. This September, she returned to Quito for the fourth time.
Quito, ah, Quito. It is a mission I know well, my home mission, as I would put it. This year was my fourth mission to Quito. I have taken a hiatus from traveling for the last two years as I have had babies of my own. We are finally out of the proverbial “woods” of my youngest’ first year and I felt the need and calling to start going on missions again. What better choice than to go home again.
Our team flew in over the familiar twinkling lights in the mountains of Quito and I couldn’t help but become excited at the events of the week to unfold. How many children would we screen tomorrow? How many surgeries could we do? How many lives could we help to heal?
I was greeted by familiar faces and new- all smiling and happy to be here in this city, on this mission, in this moment. I was warmed by the embraces of people I consider family, especially Mary Kay Dassum, who is a major driving force behind the success of this mission- and not just while we are here, but all year long. Quito, ah, Quito.
Screening day- it is the most intense and sometimes chaotic day of the mission. There are families lining the long hallway to our screening room and they are spilled out and completely fill the large waiting room outside. As we walk by- I connect with parents and children alike- smiling and greeting, amazement in my head and heart that we are really here, we continue to be here, and we will be able to help many of these children this week.
Our team is ready to go and the screening process has begun. As each child sees the triage nurses, then surgery, then anesthesia, pediatrics, speech therapy and dental, I am deeply respectful of the relationship we have with Fundación Tierra Nueva, the people who help us year round, and our team. The organization is outstanding. It is a true testament to the long term commitment of both organizations to work together to help the children of this beautiful city.
I am helping however I am needed. I help guide patients through the organized chaos, run for equipment and supplies, help obtain needed translation, make sure our team is staying hydrated and well and I observe the evolving process of screening clinic. There are still lines, but everyone waits patiently. This process has come a long way.
I am taking a lot of pictures this time- the process is so smooth, I am afforded a small amount of luxury of trying to capture, impossibly, the magnitude of hope and bravery of these families, and the love and care of our team. I am trying my best.
Screening day ends with an enormous success and many, many children are scheduled for surgery this week. We have screened approximately 150 children today for surgery and dental procedures that will help to change their lives. We will not be able to work with every child, but we will be able to help many of them.
This is my first mission since becoming a mother – and I feel the difference. When I look into the eyes of each parent, I can feel their hope and fear- and their bravery for coming- for trusting in our team to do what is best for their child. I am lost in the deep pools of their children’s eyes- the comfort they take in their parents’ arms amidst the noise and novelty of the scene here today. I melt with their smiles, despite deformity and I ache when they cry.
Too often I think that I am caught up in the daily routine of my life, of schedules and sleep (or lack thereof), of work and traffic and everything else that takes over the minutes of my days. I pause and remember that the details of my work have a greater meaning and purpose. I see this in the face of a brave mother who has just given her child, crying and scared, to our anesthesiologist to go have surgery.
I am on a plane home now to my own babies. I have not come for the entire mission as I have to be back and work on our first four missions of the coming year and to maintain the operations of our organization. Our team is still now working hard, intense and rewarding hours at Fundación Tierra Nueva and I am proud. I am wishing I could have stayed. I know it will be a hugely successful week.
NB – Indeed, the entire Quito Mission was an enormous success. The surgical and dental teams were able to help heal 114 children and young adults.