Category Archives: My Humanitarian Trips

April 2014

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Wow! How time flies! It’s crazy that I haven’t blogged for 4 months. I guess that’s the life of a mom of an almost 1 1/2 year-old. Life is great and very busy. I’m always amazed at those mothers with 2, 3, 4 and 5+ kids! How do they do it?! I have so much respect for them. I recently became friends with a mom who has 9 kids. Amazing!

A lot has happened in the last 4 months. I’ve been working full-time in the NICU since December. It has been great. Matt has been able to watch Lilah while I’m at work so that has been a huge blessing for our family. He’s been able to spend so much time with her before he starts P.A. school in May. They have bonded so much and I still am able to be home 4 1/2 days per week with Lilah because of my amazing job. I’m so glad that I became a nurse. It’s a great job for a mom. I can work full-time and still be able to be at home most of the time with Matt and Lilah. They are my best friends in the whole world. I miss them when I work, but it’s also kind of nice to get out of the house to maintain my sanity. I applaud stay-at-home mothers and fathers! They truly have the most important job and the most difficult job on the planet. I would love to stay home more when Matt becomes a PA but I also always want to keep my nursing license and work 1-2 days/week or 1 day every other week like some of my friends at work do. I definitely want to keep my job in the NICU no matter what. I love it and I’m so grateful that Matt got into PA school in Utah so that I can keep my job.

Lilah has really progressed in the past 4 months. She started walking last month. It’s so cute to see her waddle around with her arms above her head for balance as she crashes into the closest thing that she can get to. I just love to see her explore her little world. She is at such a fun stage. She has started jabbering a lot lately. Nothing intelligible but she has some good intonation going on. Haha! She still is saying Mama, Dadda and dog. Those are still her main words but she said “Gramma” twice and Jack once and she approximates words sometimes. But it’s hard. We try so hard to get her to talk more. The other day in the car we were reading a farm book and I said “This is a cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cow. . .” Then Lilah pointed to the picture and said, “Dog?” Haha! Silly girl. She calls every animal a dog. Except sometimes she has said Duck (which sounds like Dog in reality). The other day, I think she said Frog. She’s getting there. We are very proud parents.

She’s a really good girl. She’s been teething a lot lately and her molars have been coming in so that has been hard for her but overall, she is a lot of fun and very pleasant. She is definitely opinionated though. It’s hard not to give into her. We really need to teach her sign language or something to help her not throw tantrums. I gave up on sign language a long time ago but maybe it’s time to revisit that idea.

Matt and I had the most amazing experience earlier this month. We had been preparing and praying for an opportunity to go on a humanitarian trip with the church together to teach newborn resuscitation. We got certified in Helping Babies Breath and NRP as providers and instructors. I even expedited my passport renewal just in case we got called to go.  In March, we got an unexpected phone call from Dr. Bond who said that one of the nurses had a change in plans and couldn’t go on the upcoming trip to Honduras. I told Sister Bond that we could both go and she made arrangements for us so that we could both go. It’s great to speak Spanish because we can serve on these trips much more often because of the great need for this training in Spanish speaking countries. I’m so grateful for this amazing opportunity. Matt and I went to Honduras for 9 days. I’ll write a post about it.  It has been one of Matt and my dreams since we started dating to go on medical humanitarian missions. We talked about how we wanted to do that on one of our first dates hiking up to the Salt Lake Overlook. It’s such a blessing to be able to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams with my husband so young in life. We thought that we wouldn’t be able to go together until much later in life.

I think that Heavenly Father loves me. He just keeps blessing my life and answering my prayers. I don’t deserve it either. I really struggle sometimes with doing everything that I’m supposed to do and yet, He always finds ways to reach out to me and help me to know that He is there and that He loves me. I’m so grateful for God’s mercy and grace. He really can make so much more out of our lives than we can by ourselves. He has made my life so rich. I’m sure that there are so many other blessings that He has for me if I only reached out to Him more. He’s like the best friend that is always there for you no matter what.

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Bogotá, Colombia

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     We arrived in Bogotá late because we were waiting for our airplane to come into Florencia. We finally were able to get a flight by Monday morning and were able to spend the day in Bogotá. It was so much fun. We were able to go to Monsarrate!! I had wanted to go there on my previous trip to Bogotá but the weather didn’t cooperate. Well, it was perfect weather on Monday and we were able to go.

     Monsarrate is a catholic cathedral that is located at the top of a mountain off of Bogotá. It’s beautiful. It was built in the early 1900’s. It was a place where people went to be healed. They would climb to the top of the mountain on their knees and then they were healed. There used to be lots of crutches and stuff up there, but now, it’s a nice cathedral with a restaurant and a gift shop. You get to the top by taking a cable car. It’s 10,000 feet above sea level at the top. I got light-headed and had to sit down. It was really so beautiful. My favorite part though, was when we were getting ready to take the cable car back down, I started talking with all of these sweet catholic nuns from Venezuela. They were beautiful! They loved talking to me and they let me take a picture with them. When I was saying goodbye to them, they were so sweet and each one blessed me and blessed my baby. I was touched by their kindness.

     We then went and spent the night at the dorms at the Bogotá Temple! It was so fun to be by the temple. We didn’t get to go inside because it was a Monday, but it was really nice just being near it.

     We caught a flight out on Tuesday morning and I finally got back to my sweet hubby that night by 9 PM. He is so awesome. He was so excited to see me. He was waiting at the baggage claim for me and it was so good to be reunited with him again. It was very hard being away from Matt. I love him so much. Being away from him helped me to realize just how much I need him and how much I love him.

This is the tram up to Monsarrate. 🙂

 

The beautiful view at the top of Monsarrate.

 

Sister Wong and I with Bogota in the background

 

These are some sweet nuns that I started talking to at Monsarrate. I love them. After telling them what we were doing and getting to know them, they blessed me and they blessed by little baby.

 

The Bogota, Colombia Temple. We stayed at the dorms and I had a view of the temple from my bedroom. So beautiful. 🙂

Florencia, Colombia

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     Before I left to Colombia, I was not informed that we were going to one of the cities in Colombia with the worst reputation. I knew that we were going to Florencia, but I had never heard about its reputation. Well, it turns out that Florencia used to be the headquarters of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The FARC are a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia. They are very dangerous and are responsible for a lot of the violence, kidnappings and drug trafficking that goes on there. They mostly hide in the country or in the forest away from big cities. Fortunately, we were very safe and never had a problem with any of them during our trip. We did hear about things that happened while we were there.

This is the little plane that we flew in to Florencia

 

This is a pig truck. It just seemed very South American to me. 🙂

 

There were a lot of horse drawn buggies in the city.

 

The view of Florencia from our hotel

 

The fruit and vegetable market

     The day before we arrived in Florencia, there was a horrible incident with the FARC. A woman was in labor 20 minutes from the city and her midwife called for a police escort to the local hospital in Florencia. On the way to the hospital, the FARC intercepted the ambulance, shot and killed almost everyone in the ambulance including 2 police officers, the midwife, the Dad, the 9-year-old son, and the baby. The mom survived but is paralyzed. It’s just so tragic that these things happen all of the time there.

     The FARC will kidnap children and train them to kill their families or they will make them kill the other children who refuse to kill others. They train them to be members of the FARC. Some children do it voluntarily because their families are just so poor or they don’t have any family.

     The 1st Counselor of the District Presidency of the LDS church in Florencia told me that he has to pay $5,000,000 Colombian pesos ($3,000 US dollars)/year to the FARC so that the FARC won’t kill his family. If he doesn’t pay, then his family isn’t protected. It’s sad.

     Now, the military has taken over Florencia for the most part. But many of them are no better than the FARC. One of the new converts members of my church was ex-military and he told us horrible stories. He said that they used to get bonuses for each member of the FARC that they killed, but some soldiers would kill innocent civilians and dress them up in the clothes of the FARC to get their bonus of 10 days vacation. It’s so horrible.

     That is the horrible side of Colombia, but the Colombia that I was exposed to was amazing and the people are honestly the most loving, kind and warm people who I’ve ever met in all of my travels. They are much warmer and kinder than Americans.

Brother and Sister Ostos from Bogota. They are LDS humanitarian missionaries for Colombia. Brother Ostos was so funny. He wouldn’t let me lift a finger because of the pregnancy. So sweet.

 

This is Xiomara. She is one of the awesome young women in the Florencia Branch. I love her!

 

This is Xiomara’s Grandpa “mowing the lawn”. He just does it for service. He was working so hard. Bless his heart.

     I had a great time doing the training. We did the training at the LDS chapel. We trained 65 doctors and nurses in NRP and then we trained them to become instructors so that they can perpetuate the program in their hospitals and communities. Florencia is the capital of Caqueta. I learned that in the whole department of Caqueta (which is huge) there are only four NICU beds. Not four NICU’s . . . four NICU beds. I was shocked by that.

This is what the tables looked like for the practices.

 

 Some of our graduates after donations were given. The church gave tons of donations so that the program can be perpetuated in their communites but not all of the donations are shown here.

 

Our group with the First Lady of Caqueta

     My favorite part of the trip was being around the cute kids and young women of my church that came to help us. They were so sweet and helpful! They just loved me and I love them so much. They love my accent and some of the cute little kids would just come up and follow me around and stand there and watch me. It was so sweet. The young women were the cutest. There were four young women who were there everyday helping us. They were great girls. We became very good friends.

     On Friday night after the training, we were able to go to the Quinceanera Party. It’s a huge birthday party for the girls when they turn 15-year-old. It’s very extravagant like a wedding. Everyone was there. Lots of families and friends. It started at 9 but the 15-year-old girl (la quinceanera) didn’t get there until 10 PM or so. When she arrived, she did a special dance with her father, then she did a choreographed dance with 5 boys. Usually they have 15 boys in the dance, but because it takes so long, she only had 5 boys. It was cute. They then served food and we all danced the salsa, merengue, la cumbia and other dances. It was a blast and an amazing cultural experience. 

 

    
  
 

    
My sweet Colombian friends at the Quinceanera. Lots of them are young women from the branch.    
 
      The landscape in Colombia is breathtaking and diverse. Florencia is called the golden gateway to the Amazon. It’s very humid there with tons of vegetation. In fact, it’s so humid that we were stuck in Florencia for 2 extra days because we got rained in and the airport closed. The airport is very small and used to only be a shack a couple of months before. Now, it’s a nicer building but they only get one flight in and one flight out per day. We couldn’t go by land because there were two large mudslides that covered up the highways. Our only option was to wait for an airplane or drive for 12 hours on a small road to Bogotá. I, being pregnant, was not going to drive for 12 hours in Colombia. First of all, they don’t wear any seatbelts there. Secondly, there are no enforced traffic laws and there is no speed limit. Thirdly, I am pregnant and therefore prone to blood clots when sitting for a long time and I have to get up and walk around every hour. Fourthly, it’s dangerous driving through the countryside with the FARC. So, I asked to just wait for an airplane, but luckily, one came the very next morning.

     It actually turned out to be great because we got to go to church on Sunday and Gloria and a friend from the hotel came with us. Everything works out for a reason right?

Smoked ribs with pork rinds and corn meal at our lunch on Saturday with the First Lady.

 

Giant Steak for Sister Welling. 🙂

 

 

Montería, Colombia

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I’m in Colombia again! I’m very happy that I am able to be back here. I loved my last humanitarian trip and I never thought that I’d have the opportunity to come back. I’m here to teach another Neonatal Resuscitation training. We are doing two trainings. One here in Montería and then another in Florencia.

It was a long trip on Saturday from home. We flew to New York and then to Colombia. The trip was about 11-12 hours long plus a 2 hour layover. We arrived in Bogotá at 11:15 PM and then we woke up at 6:30 to leave for the airport to catch our flight to Montería at 9. I was so exhausted.

We arrived in Colombia without any problems. Our hotels are very nice. It’s very hot and humid here in Montería but luckily our hotel has air conditioning! Montería is near the Caribbean coast and has a lot of palm trees. It’s very green and beautiful. The city is similar to the cities that we visited last time.

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On Sunday afternoon, we went to eat lunch at a local park by the Sinú River. It was very green and lush. I ate a steak and some fried plantains with sour cream. This part of Colombia is known for it’s steak. While we were eating, giant iguanas were running around us and one even jumped up on Dr. Kartchner to try to get his food. It was crazy! It was about 4 feet long! It took him by complete surprise. It was so funny. I was too shocked to pull out the camera and there was no way that I was going to touch it. He stood up to try to get it off but it just hung on to him like he was a tree and it kept clawing at his food. When we were walking back to the hotel, we saw 5 or 6 big monkeys hanging out in a tree. They were swinging around and jumping from branch to branch. It was so cool. I felt like I was walking through a zoo. One was hanging right over my head.

On Monday, we had our first day of teaching the two-day course here in Montería. We taught at the LDS church. It is beautiful and just got finished 6 months ago. It had beautiful tall ceilings. The members of the stake presidency and some members of the relief society were there helping us for both of the days. They are so warm and loving. I love the Colombians so much. They greet everyone with a big hug and a kiss on a cheek. They just are so fun and kind. It’s so special to have the opportunity to serve the people of Colombia. They just become your instant best friends.

The course went well. About 40 doctors and nurses came to the two-day training in Monteria. They were so grateful for the training and the equipment that we donated. They have such a great need for this training because in their hospitals and clinics they have no algorithm that they follow for neonatal resuscitation. They haven’t even received any previous training on neonatal resuscitation and they lack basic resources like monitors and oximetry. They have a very high infant mortality rate. It’s rare for women to get prenatal care. Many of the moms that are giving birth are only 12 yers old or even younger! If a baby is born outside of the hospital, it takes a very long time for an ambulance to arrive.

The nurses in Monteria take care of 7-22 patients and they only get paid $400 per month to work 50-60 hour weeks. All of the training attendees said that they were so grateful to have some knowledge about what to do in a newborn resuscitation. They were so anxious to learn and they really did very well by the end of the course. I got really close to my group. They were very fun and excited to learn. They all wanted to take pictures with me and talk with me about the church and about nursing in the United States.

The stake president in Montería is only 31 years old and he’s already been the stake president for 5 years! So young. He was amazing. I love them members of my church in Colombia. For them, (and for me) the church is so important in their lives. They love to serve and help others. I love that in all of Colombia and South America, God plays an important part in each persons life, no matter what their religion. They especially love Jesus Christ so much. I respect and admire their devotion to God and their love for Him.

I noticed that all of the children that I met in Colombia are very respectful and well-mannered. They are so beautiful and if Matt and I ever adopt a child, I hope that he or she can be from South America.

Humanitarian Trip Update – Colombia! Here I come . . . Again!

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     I was originally asked to go to Venezuela to teach neonatal resuscitation with my church but now I have been reassigned to Colombia and I won’t be able to go to Venezuela. I wanted to go to Venezuela, but I am also so excited to have the opportunity to return to Colombia. It’s such a blessing to be able to go. I will be going to two cities, Florencia (gateway to the amazon region) and Monteria (near the Caribbean coast in Northern Colombia). We’ll be teaches two advanced American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal resuscitation Program (NRP) courses to train the doctors and nurses so that they can perpetuate the NRP program in their own hospitals and clinics. Colombia has a high infant mortality rate and our mission is to help save the lives of Colombian babies. The church also donates a lot of supplies. I’ll be gone for eight days in June. If you want to see my post and pictures from my last trip to Colombia in October, click here.

Colombia’s Flag

Can you find Florencia and Monteria?

Humanitarian Trip Update

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     I found out today that I get to go to Colombia again at the beginning of June to teach neonatal resuscitation for my church. We will be traveling to Florencia (gateway to the Amazon region of Colombia) and Monteria (near the caribbean coast in Northern Colombia).   I’m excited that I will be going to Colombia again. I loved it last time. I am going with Eric and Kathy Welling again and some more of the same people from my last trip. I’m excited about that because I just loved them!

     My trip to Venezuela has been delayed because they haven’t been able to set a specific date yet. I emailed Sister Bond, the NRT trip coordinator, and she said that I can go to Colombia and possibly to Venezuela, too. I would love to do both trips. The cities that we were going to go to in Venezuela looked so amazing. They were Barquisimeto and Merida. We’ll see though if it works out. I’d miss Matt a lot being gone on two trips in one month though. We’ll see what happens. 🙂

Venezuela Delay

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     I was so bummed yesterday because I found out that my trip to Venezuela is going to be delayed until June. I was supposed to go in May. It’s not really a big deal and Matt said that we’ll have to watch the news to see if there will be some chaos in Venezuela that week. 🙂 I guess everything happens for a reason. I know that it’s dumb to be sad about it.

     I found out that the cities that I’ll be going to are Barquisimeto and Merida. They look so amazing, especially Merida. It’ll be so cool to go there. I’m going with the Doucettes. They are a couple that has been doing NRT trips since 2007. I’m excited to meet them. It’s always fun to get to know new people on these trips. I became so close with each group member when I had my trip to Colombia.