This blog post is written by Pallavi Tatapudy, MS4 at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University who served as co-leader of the 2017 medical and surgical mission to Sacred Valley, Perú organized by A Promise to Peru.

“Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting.” -Brian Tracy

This morning, we left Hotel Zeus promptly by 7:30 am. I entered the clinic and paused at the front door one last time to read the sign describing the free eye surgeries that would be provided this week at the clinic. I then walked up the stairs to find Señor José and his wife, Martha, holding a large colorful bag full of bread and pastries from a well-known local bakery. Señor José asked me to find Dr. David Krebs who performed his surgery yesterday so that he could give him the bag in hand to share with all of us as a gesture of appreciation. It was clear that we had become family through this experience. What a start to the day. ¡Que bonito!

As I walked towards the post-operative recovery area, another patient from yesterday reached out for my hands and said in Spanish, “My prayer to God is for Him to bless you with even more intelligence and love so that you can continue to serve humanity and the people of Ecuador.” After this, each patient waiting for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Carlos Gonzalez and Cesar Gonzalez then stood up for a hug and repeatedly expressed their gratitude and good wishes. The waiting room was instead bustling with positivity and optimism this morning. I felt even more energized for the day ahead. I then observed Rocio Asitimbay, a senior nurse at FIBUSPAM, adding to the good energy as well by taking care of patients with love and respect before they entered the sterile area for further evaluation and surgery. Two hard-working nurses who were critical to the success of the mission, Ana Lema and Jimena Paca, also extended this type of exceptional care to patients.

Our team was called upstairs to the third floor of the clinic to eat lunch in shifts. We ate pasta and vegetable soup, seasoned chicken, rice, cheese, and fried dough with a sweet honey sauce.

By 2:50 pm, we finished surgeries on the last sixteen patients of the mission! We cleaned up the clinic and packed the mission suitcases till about 4:00 pm. FIBUSPAM kindly offered to store our key equipment and supplies in bins that we can use for next year’s mission when we return. Michael McDonald, Dr. Joseph Kristan, and I took inventory of those items for our records.

We then loaded all of the mission suitcases onto the bus and bid a bittersweet farewell to the clinic. We got back to Hotel Zeus by 4:25 pm and quickly unloaded the luggage to be safely stored till tomorrow when we would leave Riobamba for Quito. With roughly an hour before we had to leave for the evening celebration, our team members went up to their rooms to get ready. We left the hotel by 5:40 pm to pick up our FIBUSPAM and Partners for Andean Community Health family by 6:20 pm and then drove to “Hostería La Andaluza.” Everyone was relaxed and able to unwind during the bus ride and dinner, which were filled with laughter and love. Once we reached the hacienda, we were fortunate to receive a full tour of the property. The impressive artwork and architecture captured our eyes and hearts.

We sat down in the main dining hall and began dinner by 8:00 pm. We enjoyed plantain chips with different salsas, potato soup with avocado, beans, and cheese, mixed vegetables, meat platters, quinoa with vegetables, pasta, and three types of cake.

Around 8:15 pm, speeches were given by Wilson Rosales, our incredible tour guide, David Guacho, the passionate co-founder of FIBUSPAM, and Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, the ophthalmologist at FIBUSPAM. Lucy Miller-Suchet, a Princeton in Latin America Fellow, handed out certificates. We were also gifted honorary scarves with FIBUSPAM and PACH patches sewed onto them. The in-country clinic staff was then awarded certificates. Dr. Michael Sable, a skilled ophthalmologist, board member of Sights on Health, Inc., and our organization’s Surgical Director, gave an inspiring speech about the value and purpose of such mission work in his life and how it inspires him to continue contributing for the good of humanity. He was joined in the front of the room by Dr. Debra Messina, co-founder of Sights on Health, Inc., and Cathy Roberts, a dedicated administrator of the organization. Everyone in the room stood up, looked to the left and to the right, and thanked one another. These were not strangers, but my global family whose fortitude did not waver; a family that addresses disparities together, stays together.

The celebration continued with a special musical performance by a group of talented Ecuadorian artists. We clapped and cheered as team members took on the dance floor. After many exchanges of good wishes and gratitude, we headed back to Hotel Zeus for one last night in Riobamba, Ecuador. ¡Buenas noches, mi familia!