Imagine waiting all day in the hot sun just to see a doctor or walking for hours to visit a dentist.
El Dorado Hills pediatrician Maria Raslear-Hendrickson has seen this and more over the years during her humanitarian trips to Third World countries. Later this month she will share the experience with her 12-year-old daughter Kaitlyn.
The mother-daughter team will travel with a Rolling Hills Christian Church group to Copán, Honduras — Maria’s third trip to the country and Kaitlyn’s first.
“I decided she was old enough … and what an awesome experience for a kid,” Maria said.
Maria has participated in six humanitarian trips with the El Dorado Hills church since 2004, visiting Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. In the beginning only a handful of people went, she recalled. This time about 40 people will travel to Copán, including doctors, dentists and construction professionals. In addition to providing much-needed medical care the group will focus on improving the community’s water system.
“If we can take care of their water that will (help) take care of their health,” Maria said.
Typically, Maria said, she’s the only pediatrician on the team but this year another will join the group, allowing Maria to make home visits at least one day during her visit.
Kaitlyn, a seventh-grader at Holy Trinity School in El Dorado Hills, will help out at the medical clinic, travel around with her mom and give soccer balls to the children. The 12-year-old has played the game since she was 6 and said she can’t wait to kick the ball around with the kids down there. The soccer balls will undoubtedly create endless smiles as they love the game in Honduras, Maria noted.
On previous trips Maria took her daughters’ unwanted toys with her and handed them out. She always brought back photos of the little ones tightly clutching a stuffed animal.
“The little kids look really happy (to receive the toys),” Kaitlyn said, adding that’s she’s also excited to learn about Honduras’ culture (and less excited that she can’t wear shorts in the humid weather).
Mom and daughter will get a little time off during their stay and Kaitlyn said she can hardly wait to try out the zip-line that Maria braved last time she visited Honduras.
“I did it and I loved it,” said Maria, who confessed she’s not a big fan of heights. “So I promised I’d take her.”
Maria, who practices with the Mercy Medical Group, said humanitarian work is “addictive” and she hopes to pass her passion to all her daughters — Kaitlyn, Faith, 11, and Grace, 9 — and take them along on humanitarian missions.
“One at a time, though,” Maria said.
A translator will help Maria and Kaitlyn communicate (neither speaks Spanish) but, Maria said, a lot is said by the looks on the people’s faces.
“They’re kind and so grateful,” she explained. “These people are getting medical care that they would never be able to get. You really feel like you’re doing something important.”