Last Saturday 47 surgical and medical volunteers convened at the Memorial Outpatient Surgical Center Long Beach to provide free surgeries to 15 children in one day. After a year of playing whack-a-mole setting missions, rescheduling missions, riding the pandemic rollercoaster, remote work, travel moratoriums, treating individual cases, delivering PPE, hosting symposia, it was no small feat to finally have our 8th Hometown mission date that we could all work toward. And seeing the kids arrive, from all over Southern California (and one from Arizona,) talking to them about the challenges and obstacles they overcame for them to get here. Their families' resilience. Their faith. It all just reminded us and reinforced why we do our Hike 2 Mend every fall. And then, after a long day, waving goodbye to them in the end, knowing that we had restored their self-esteem, was something we could all sigh with relief for. We have between 3 and 4 million kids in this state that are underinsured or uninsured and we are a small nonprofit, so the idea that Mending Kids could someday be a go-to to and help connect a greater fraction of these kids in need through a referral network is a big dream. One that we will have to be strategic and resilient about, building it, managing it, one mission and one child at a time, patiently and resolutely. The big picture is about shining a light on the health disparity that surrounds us; visibly and invisibly and the social injustice that is inextricably enmeshed alongside it. Health frees up resources and energy to focus on learning and for the parent to focus on employment, affording them all the time to elevate their standards of living and reset them on a course to dream of better things. So we are left with two options: We can go to sleep at night beating ourselves up for not mending more kids (several kids were leftover for the next mission) or we can go to sleep at night with some measure of relief knowing that we may not have saved the world, but last Saturday, we helped mend 15 kids’ worlds and for now, that’s going to have to be okay. We will forge ahead, methodically and diligently, to the next Hometown Mission - Mend US and make it happen soon for our next wave of patients. They shouldn't have to wait so long to enjoy their childhoods.
Together, we are Mending Kids.