Giving back. There really is no better feeling in the world then being able to help someone. Anna Laakso agrees.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and have a passion for helping others,” says Anna, RN, Emergency Care Department (ER).
In April, Anna got to fulfill both these passions by traveling to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for a Joyce Meyers Ministries Hand of Hope medical mission trip with 26 other Christian medical professionals from Australia, Canada, South Africa and across the United States. The trip helps provide medical and dental services to those who may otherwise go without, as well as help Christians grow in their faith.
In the Bulawayo clinic, Anna worked in the lab, provided wound care and would fit children with shoes when needed. There were also three dentists, a pharmacist, as well as nurses and doctors from Zimbabwe who helped. “We saw 2,516 patients in five days. It was crazy,” says Anna.
The clinic would open at 8 or 9 am, but Anna said patients would start lining up at 4 am. She also heard that at least one man walked 10 miles to get to the clinic.
“I remember mentioning to the team that if I was home in the ER and saw these people waiting, I’d be so overwhelmed; but, being here and seeing all of the people who needed to be helped changed everything for me,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience to see how others lived in far less than I had ever experienced, and it felt so good to give back to people who needed it. This was a rewarding, life-changing experience.”
Anna mentioned that several of the people who visited the clinic were suffering from severe conditions, and received free care through the clinic. Anna watched a patient with nystagmus, where both eyes twitch back and forth, who hadn’t been able to see well for their entire life receive a pair of glasses that helped to correct their vision. She also saw an elderly patient who came to the clinic using a cane to walk and with excruciating back pain, leave in far less pain and a family member carrying the cane.
To go on the trip, Anna had to raise $3,700, which covered her lodging, travel and immunization costs for the trip.
“I can’t wait to go back,” she says. And, she’s already got another trip planned. This time, she’ll be trekking to Ethiopia in November.
- Top left: Anna with her roommate and travel partner, Jami.
- Top center: The Hand of Hope team outside of the clinic.
- Right: Volunteers Pam, Mrs. Dubai and Anna. Mrs. Dubai is a nurse in Zimbabwe and helped us with translating.
- Bottom: The Hand of Hope team and volunteers praying in the courtyard on the first day before seeing patients.