Volunteering runs in the family

Kaitlyn Hendrickson plays with a Honduran boy during her humanitarian visit to the country. She traveled with her mom and a group from Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills. Courtesy photo

As Kaitlyn Hendrickson rode horseback to a Honduran village she and her group came upon a woman cradling a newborn baby. The new mother had been walking for 15 hours.

They gave her food, water and other supplies they could spare.

Moments like these filled the trip Kaitlyn took with her mother, Dr. Maria Raslear-Hendrickson, and a group from Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills. Last month about 40 people flew to Copán, Honduras, to volunteer in medical clinics and help with construction projects designed to improve the water system.

“Being there, I loved it. It was amazing,” said Kaitlyn, 12, of her first humanitarian trip. “I definitely want to go back.”

Maria Raslear-Hendrickson has taken several trips, working in medical clinics in a handful of Third World countries. This time, she decided Kaitlyn was old enough to accompany her.

“It was an awesome trip,” the proud mother said, “and really special to share that with her.”

First, though, they had to make it to their destination. The two-hour bus ride from El Dorado Hills and five-hour plane ride from San Francisco went well but their connecting flight in Honduras hit a snag.

“The first time we got on the plane the engine started smoking so we had to go back,” Kaitlyn recalled.

A new, non-smoking plane arrived and after they landed they got on another bus. “It was a really long trip,” Kaitlyn said.

The group began its work in a village church that doubles as a medical clinic. While Maria saw patients, Kaitlyn assisted in the operating room and worked in the eye clinic, helping people find the right prescription glasses and sunglasses.

She soon learned everyone had different tastes when it came to style.

“A little boy picked up these glasses that were like Harry Potter glasses only sunglasses,” Kaitlyn said. “He was so happy and left with the biggest smile on his face.”

A Honduran man came into the clinic later and selected jeweled sunglasses.

Finding the right prescription glasses for patients proved difficult, Kaitlyn added, not only because patients had a lot of choices but also because Kaitlyn doesn’t speak Spanish.

“‘No hable español.’ I said that a lot,” she said.

But Kaitlyn and Maria could easily translate the grateful looks they received. One patient came in with a hernia unlike any other. “Needless to say it was as big as a basketball,” Maria said.

After surgery the man had to double check to make sure it was really gone, she explained, because he’d been let down so many times before.

A woman came into the clinic with a large keloid on her ear. When the surgical team finished she just smiled and happily posed for photos, Maria said.

“The people there are so brave,” the doctor noted. “All we had was local anesthetic.”

Kaitlyn also received many smiles from the children. She and a group took toys via horseback to a village. “When we said we were going to give the kids toys they screamed,” she said. “It was a mob.

“They were the cutest things I had ever seen,” Kaitlyn said of the Honduran children.

Mom and daughter also got to have some fun in Honduras. As promised, Kaitlyn and Maria sailed down one of the country’s famous zip lines.

And while she’ll undoubtedly remember the wind through her hair, Kaitlyn said the best part about the trip was making a difference in the people’s lives. “It’s actually helping,” she said of her church’s and The Rice Foundation’s (ricefoundation.us) commitment to the Honduran community.

Both hope to make another trip to Honduras.

“We are created to serve others and a life without service is just existing,” Maria said.

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Posted by on Mar 26 2012.
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