Packed, loaded with medical supplies and ready to go help those in need, a group of doctors and volunteers left San Diego for Guatemala Saturday. The reason for their trip? The help those less fortunate see again.
Helps International is a nonprofit based in Texas that provides sustainability programs to help communities out of poverty as well as providing medical care.
“We’re all locked into our personal community, personal space, we forget how much need there is out there, how much we can do to help,” ophthalmologist volunteer Ayham Skaf told NBC 7.
He and more than 40 other volunteers boarded the plane to a small village in Guatemala Saturday.
“There will be a long, long line of people that will be triaged and immediately taken to whatever surgery they need,” team leader Asa Morton, said.
For 11 days, they will be performing roughly 150 free cataract surgeries including 30 surgeries facial and eye reconstructive.
“At the end of the day when you look at all of the patients you’ve helped that day, or at the end of the week when you bring people back and look at what you’ve done, it’s overwhelming,” Morton added.
Some of the volunteers have done this trip several times before. Once on the ground in Guatemala, they’ll set up a makeshift clinic with two operating rooms in a deserted army base.
“I remember an 80-year-old man who was blind in both eyes from his cataracts. Last time we went we removed his cataracts and he was so happy just that he could go back and see his grandkids that he hadn’t seen yet.”
The volunteers will also give more than 500 patients glasses and medicine to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.
The task could seem overwhelming, but the group says it’s surprising what a team of caring volunteers can do.
“A lot of my friends say I wish I could do that, and you just got to book a flight,” Skaf added.
To find out more on how you can get involved on a medical trip or donate to Helps International visit their website.