As many of you know, John and I have had the honor and pleasure of traveling to Orangewalk, Belize with the LEAP Foundation for the past two years. I can’t say enough what an amazing experience it has been. I feel truly humbled and blessed to be able to use my photography to capture the work these selfless doctors and nurses are doing. It’s great to also work along side John in an organization we are both passionate about. Thanks again to LEAP missions director Sherry Colbern and its founder, Dr. Craig Hobar, for this opportunity!
A brief background: LEAP creates medical mission teams comprised of surgeons, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, nurses and general helpers to bring free medical care to impoverished areas across the world. The teams provide reconstructive surgery to correct cleft lips, cleft palates, congenitally absent ears and other facial deformities and disfiguring injuries. LEAP also provides an eye surgeon and ocular prosthetic specialists that make prosthetic eyes on site for those in need.
As the trip photographer for the Belize trip two years in a row, my job was to float among the various operating rooms, waiting rooms and recovery rooms, documenting everything. I also photographed patients pre-operation and post operation. This year, the two main operating rooms were in different buildings and I had to walk across a street, past a fruit stand, numerous stray dogs, roosters and chickens to get to one from the other. Life is so simple there and it really made me think about how much I take for granted.
To say I witnessed some amazing work is an understatement. I watched Dr. Hobar take a little girl’s rib and make an ear out of it since she was born with only one. He also offered to pierce her ears and she was excited to finally wear earrings! I saw a mother weep with joy after seeing her baby post surgery for a cleft lip repair. I shed a few tears that day myself. One child was brought in by missionaries after being found wandering the streets of Orangewalk. She had been kicked out of her home by her grandmother. The missionaries brought her to LEAP to repair her crossed eyes and returned her to her grandmother only to find out she still didn’t want her. They have adopted her.
I could go on and on with stories of courageous survivors, heroic medical specialists and Belizean hospitality but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. After sorting through close to two thousand images, I’ve created a documentary of our time there located at HeatherThorne.com under “galleries”. I encourage you to take a look at the many precious children God led us to. I know their lives are forever changed for the better. I know mine is too…and a little piece of my heart is still in Orangewalk and always will be.
Some behind the scenes fun photos taken with a point and shoot (my work is in the documentary at HeatherThorne.com)—
Here’s me in my new personalized scrubs:
John with Dr. Hobar
Three new friends I made (and fabulous nurses!) Cindy, MaryBeth and Jana:
Me with Robyn – our husbands work together and she was the recovery room nurse:
Sherry giving Cary (another nurse) a much needed foot massage:
Two general volunteers who I loved hanging out with-Michelle and Andrea:
Bridgitte showing her gun:
Jana and Cindy showing their “guns”:
Me and John: