Heather Ebron, RN, BSN, OCN, a clinical nurse II working in Triage, knows what it is to care for others, but when a summer mission trip took her to one of the most impoverished areas in the world, she said she learned quickly she had a lot more to learn about life, love and caring.
"Nothing prepared me for the level of poverty I found in the batéyes of the Dominican Republic," said Ebron, who signed on this summer with Team Tampa Bay Missions, Inc., a Florida-based nonprofit providing medical care to impoverished communities in the United States and around the world. "The Batéy at La Pinta was probably the poorest place I've ever been to in my life. Children, barely clothed, were running around barefoot, playing in areas pooling with excrement. People there live in tin lean-tos. I grew up poor, but nothing I knew compares to what I experienced in La Pinta."
Ebron fulfilled a life long dream when she joined the team of volunteer nurses on the humanitarian mission trip to provide medical care and wellness activities to batéyes, small communities located on sugarcane plantations where workers harvest sugarcane by hand with a machete. Most work up to 14 hours in a day only to possibly earn the equivilent of $10 or $15. Recently divorced, Ebron had hoped to embark on that first mission trip as a husband-wife team. When fate would not allow, she mustered all the courage she could to realize her dream— even alone.
"I made a promise to myself to get there," she said. "All the other nurses on the mission trip, most there for a second and third time, supported and encouraged me. There was great camaraderie. It truly was an 'All for one and one for all experience.'"
Ebron said she learned a great deal while providing care to the people of the impoverished batéyes.
"I've learned that when I have pain, I don't have to be one."
"Here I am sitting at my desk," Ebron said. "My brightly colored notebooks are to my left. My hot coffee, complete with cream and sugar, is to my right. I am comfortable and ready to work. Unlike those I just left, I don't have to work hours under a sweltering sun. I don't have to use bottled water to brush my teeth. I am abundantly fortunate, and sometimes I forget. My experience this summer has taught me that when I have pain, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day I should reach out and touch someone. And I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.
For more information on Tampa Bay Missions and its quest to support impoverished communities worldwide, visit Tampa Bay Missions, Inc.