Christina: During the spring break of 2015, I had the opportunity to travel with my parents through Refuge International to the clinic in Chocola, Guatemala. It was easily my most life-changing experience. I have been very interested in pursuing a career in medicine for as long as I can remember, and my parents believed that this would be a great chance to expose me to everything medicine had to offer.
The people that participated in the Refuge International program came from diverse backgrounds, and we all joined together to serve the Guatemalan people. The strength of the Guatemalan people was so impressive and inspiring. They would travel three hours by foot to receive treatment, and travel home three hours by foot the day after surgery. I knew I needed to help.
When I came home, I immediately began planning for a trip back. Along with my desire to go back, I wanted to do whatever I could to provide help. My school has always taught us to serve others, and that’s what I planned to do. I brought up the idea of sending medical supplies to Anna Katherine during the summer of 2015, and we both agreed to reach out to our local hospitals and school for help. From connections within our community, we gathered and shipped around 2,000 items to the Refuge International headquarters in hope that they would provide relief.
Anna Katherine: Christina approached me in the summer of 2015 after she returned from her trip to Chocola. She knew that I shared her passion for medicine and asked for help organizing a project to assist Refuge International. After hearing the personal stories of the resilient Guatemalan patients, I knew that there was no other organization more deserving of our efforts.
Neither one of us had ever organized a service project, so we spent most of our time brainstorming ideas to collect donations. After reaching out to our school, we were introduced to a local retired cardiologist who served as our mentor and directed us to professionals who have the ability to locate the sterile supplies we needed.
We spent weeks reaching out to medical centers and suppliers, explaining the unique mission of Refuge International and their specific needs. Executives at Floyd Medical Center generously agreed to donate various supplies to be shipped to Refuge International headquarters. This past winter, Christina and I had finally collected enough supplies and together we packaged and shipped close to 2,000 items to Refuge International coordinators.
Through gracious donations, we were able to assemble this first shipment, and we plan to continue to collect and ship supplies to Refuge International in the future. It has been an honor to work with this worthy organization with whom we share the same passion for service and medical relief.
Anna Katherine Cates