The dates have been selected for the 2020 Mission. The Mission will run from Saturday, February 1st to Sunday, February 9th. Packing day and informational meeting will be Saturday, January 18th. If you are interested in being part of the team, go to the Volunteer Tab and download the 2020 Application and the 2020 Health Form. Once completed, send it to the address on the application. Deadline is October 15th and we will be assembling the team after that based on needs for the team. Team size is limited due to the logistics of transportation while in country.
In a previous post, I told you about the packing day, the final preparation for the Mission team before departing for El Salvador. On the designated Saturday, after several hours of travel, the team arrives at the San Salvador airport. Walking off the plane, the first thing you notice is the heat. This is especially noticeable considering the team boarding the plane in the middle of the winter. This is a good thing. After paying the tourist fee, getting the passports stamp and the several bags of luggage through customs, the team meets the welcoming committee of Dr Daniella, Dr Roberto and some of her team. The bags are loaded into pickups and people are loaded into the buses and after a 45-minute ride, the team arrives at San Juan, the Missions home away from home in El Salvador.
Waiting for the team at San Juan is the early team, a small part of the team that arrived in San Salvador three days before. The early team setups San Juan for the upcoming Mission. Each area is set up for pharmacy, central supply, dental, vision and village gifts. Supplies needed for the week are purchased and the final details for the team are completed.
To minimize the confusion of thirty people unpacking 30 or more bags, an area is setup for the luggage to be unloaded. Another area is set up for the distribution of all the items in those bags. This area is a covered circle with a wall around the perimeter. Tables are set up in the middle. The tables and the sections of the wall have empty bags on them for each areas of the Mission; Dental, Vision, Village Gifts and Central Supply.
After a quick lunch and a few minutes of showing the new people the “highlights” of San Juan such as where each area is (i.e. pharmacy or central supply) and more importantly where the bano is located, it’s time to unpack. After a few minutes of instructions on how this will be done, everyone grabs a bag and starts unpack and distributing each item into the appropriate section. Soon the dental bags are filling up with toothpaste and toothbrushes and vision bags are filling up with glasses and readers. Over the counter medicines are placed in the pharmacy section, flip flops and coloring books are overflowing in village gifts and all sorts of medical supplies are overflowing in central supply. As a bag is filled it is brought to its assigned area and another bag is put into its place. All this is done in what seems to be a fury of active but before we know it all the bags are unpacked and put into their assigned areas.
The team splits up into their assigned area and begin to organize and start getting things ready for the week. This includes counting pills and filling the bottles for the pharmacy. After an hour or so, dinner is ready for us. After dinner and a quick meeting about the next couple of days, it’s on to the Hotel to check in and unwind. After all there is a lot more to do before the team is ready to visit the villages.
A couple of weeks before the team leaves for El Salvador the final preparations are made. The entire team gathers together, everyone bringing a couple of empty suitcases. All around the room are 20 to 30 tables filled with all the supplies There is toothpaste and toothbrushes, readers and prescription glasses, flip flops, muscle rub, medical creams of all sorts, gauze, children’s Tylenol…. all the supplies needed for the upcoming mission. After meeting some of the new members (newbies), socializing with friends, old and new, everyone is instructed on how the bags are packed. There is frenzy of bags being packed and weighed, packed again (or unpacked) until the desired weight for each bag is 45 to 50 pounds. The first bag is packed and you get your second bag and repeat the process.
Once the bags are all packed and there are no supplies left, the bags are set to the side and an informational meeting is held. A slide show is shown and the newbies are told about the history of the mission, typical days in El Salvador, problems we may see, the importance of being safe while in country, not drinking the water… information so everyone knows what to expect.
Packing day accomplishes two steps for the Mission. First, all the supplies needed for the Mission with the exception of the prescription medicines which were done early by the planning committee, are packed up so each team member can bring them to El Salvador. The second step is team building. It is the first time the team is together. Everyone gets a chance to see friends from previous Missions and get to know new friends. This is the beginning of building the team. They are working together to achieve the purpose of the Mission, to help the people of El Salvador.