The Peace Cops
A major part of the team’s effort depends on the Peace Corps volunteers who identify the patients, transport them to the hospital, act as interpreters for the medical team, and occasionally remove sutures post-operatively. They participate in the patients’ hospital care and provide personal continuity and trust for the patients and their families. Many of the volunteers have stated that this medical mission is one of the most important works in which they have participated during their two-year tenure.
Since it was founded by the Kennedy administration in 1961, the Peace Corps has established itself as a respected organization in Latin-American countries, especially the Dominican Republic. Volunteers provide resources for local improvements such as wells sanitation, reforestation, water procurement, nutrition, and some basic medical care. The Peace Corps is the best foreign aid program that we have. With democracy and freedom breaking out around the globe, the demand for Peace Corps volunteers is soaring.
During the first medical mission, the team treated an 8 year old girl with a complete bilateral cleft clip and palate who lived in the mountains near the Haitian border. The child has never seen an electric light nor had she been to the city. The mother took the child out of the small village school as she was taunted by the other children because of her deformity. Her lip was repaired one year, her palate the next, and she subsequently became an outgoing leader in the school from which she had been removed.
A 57 year old man (pictured left) presented with a basketball sized lipoma on his back, so large she couldn’t sit in a chair comfortably nor sleep on his back. In gratitude for resecting the tumor, he delivered six eggs to the hospital- a healthy payment for a poor man.
A reclusive 40 year old farmer from north of the island was sent by a young Massachusetts Peace Corps volunteer who thought the man has an exe wound to his face. Actually, he suffered from a complete cleft lip and palate deformity. His operations were completed over a two year period. The man now attends church and visits the local village. He is no longer a recluse.
The realistic hope and goal of treatment for these plastic surgery patients is to restore them to the highest level of normalcy possible – physically, functionally and psychologically. Because the team has returned annually, it has established a long-term, mutual respect with staff and patients. All have learned to adapt, share, give and receive as a result bringing medical skills to a third world country.