I recently participated in an eight day Mission trip to Guatemala with Medical Teams International. A little like the Sisters of Providence in 1856, we traveled to a far-away place with a different language, culture, and traditions. Despite some differences, I found a lot in common – love of family, laughter, joy, appreciation of nature, and the enjoyment from a spontaneous game of soccer with children. I was profoundly blessed by the opportunity to serve with and in the rural mountain community of Chitepey, home to 400 people. This community was underserved – no running water or electricity, limited access to health care, high rates of malnutrition, as well as acute respiratory illness caused by the way food is prepared in their homes – open-pit fires. Our team installed 35 stoves in homes. These stoves not only reduced the smoke, they also are safer and better for the environment since they require one quarter the amount of firewood.
I learned a lot from the people of Chitepey, much of which is applicable to our work at Providence St. Vincent as we transform our models of care to provide high quality, safe care and compassionate service at a lower cost for Oregonians. I offer the following as reflections on my Mission trip.
· Community. I was touched by the overwhelming sense of community. A community is only as strong as its most vulnerable. I saw how this village cared for each other by always keeping an open door to ensure everyone’s basic needs were met, including housing. It reminds me that here at Providence, we have more work to strengthen the community within our hospital ministry – doing this will help us better serve our patients who rely on us on the best and most difficult days.
· Gratitude. The people of Chitapey were so present in the moment and seemed to always focus on what they have, instead of what they want or need. They expressed gratitude in a very meaningful way – by saying thank you from their hearts. At Providence, we are blessed with many resources – an inspiring Mission, a compelling vision, and terrific people of Providence who give of themselves each day. I believe we have all the resources we need to be successful, but we will have to allocate our resources differently to be successful in the new models of health care that emerge from the national legislation. We also need to make sure to say thank you in a meaningful way to each other, patients, physicians, and our families.
· Courage. I was humbled by the courage of the people of Chitepey – to welcome us graciously to their community, but also open their front doors as well as their hearts and minds to us. Even more, I applaud the courage it took to accept a stove into their home. The stove represents an entirely different way of cooking that they have used for many generations! A community leader said that these stoves will not only help them cook and improve health, but they will also change the way they think. As people of Providence, we need to continue to have the courage to open our minds to new ideas, practices, and ways of doing things that are consistent with our triple aim vision – provide national best quality, compassionate service to patients/families all while reducing the cost of care.
We are the ones who are being called to change and improve our health care system. We have all that we need to be successful – a strong Mission that calls us to serve.