“My trips to Colombia have been so rewarding and inspirational that I am unable to adequately describe how profoundly I have been touched. The humility and beauty of the people we serve continues to inspire me. Our purpose is to perform surgery on children who would otherwise go untreated. The children and their families travel many miles and days to our clinic with the hope that they will be one of the lucky ones chosen to have cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. The children come to us not only with the hope of healing but with a dream of a better life. Volunteering with Healing the Children is not only a privilege but a dream come true for me and one of the greatest gifts in my life.”
Kathy Conroy, R.N.
Healing the Children organizes surgical teams traveling to countries around the world. Teams are built around one or two surgical specialties and are generally limited to around 14 volunteers. A surgical team consists of surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room and recovery nurses and as needed, pediatricians or family practitioners and therapists. Travel generally begins on Saturday, screening is done on Sunday; the team operates from Monday through Friday noon. Return to the United States is usually Saturday or Sunday. Local residents, physicians, and surgeons are invited to participate during surgery and in-service sessions are often provided during each trip to share and exchange expertise with local professionals.
Healing the Children also arranges trips for physicians and nurses interested in providing free pediatric clinics to rural areas. The schedule is the same as for surgical trips, although some physicians request longer stays.
Volunteer medical and surgical health professionals travel at their own expense and are required to have appropriate, up-to-date certification credentials, passports and travel documents, insurance, and immunizations. Surgeons and anesthesiologists must discuss their needs for supplies well in advance, and should be aware that they may need to provide for their own surgical instruments. Specific requirements will vary by trip, location, surgical specialty, and role on the team. Details will be made available by the organizing chapter.
Volunteers help to gather donations of supplies and speak with drug, instrument, and supply representatives about needs for the mission. Everyone is required to use at least one of their "checked baggage allowance" for supplies. It is an "all hands on deck" experience.
The work is intense, but rewarding. It sounds like a lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of the volunteers, and that is true, but for years volunteers have decided that the rewards are worth it. Many doctors and nurses report feeling renewed commitment to their profession and new certainty that what they do is worthwhile.
Host Families open their homes and hearts to care for a child during his or her treatment. Because nurturing is an integral part of the success of Healing the Children’s mission, Host Families play a vital role. Flexibility is an important quality for a Host Family, as a variety of unforeseen things can happen during a child’s stay.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the children?
Children from around the world with a wide range of medical conditions are identified and are referred to Healing the Children by International Partners, hospitals, doctors, clinics, and/or by our traveling medical teams. They are brought to the U.S. because they require care beyond what is available in their home countries. The child’s parents turn over temporary care to Healing the Children during their child’s stay in the United States. These parents place enormous trust and faith in Healing the Children as they desperately await the return of their child.
What are the responsibilities of the Host Family?
A Host Family provides a level of nurturing to the healing child that cannot be given in an institutional setting. The family assumes responsibility for substitute parenting while the child is away from his/her own family. All familial needs except medical/surgical care and treatment are assumed by the Host Family (including: food, shelter, transportation to/from hospital and doctor visits, maintaining contact with the child’s parents and the HTC team and, of course, love).
What support will the Host Family be given?
Healing the Children makes all arrangements for the child’s arrival and departure (passports, visas, power of attorney, etc.). Healing the Children will provide 24 hour crisis intervention/support to the Host Family. We match a Support Family to each Host Family who will play a consistent, supportive role while the child is undergoing care. Respite care is also available to the Host Family if they plan to travel outside the state while hosting a child. We are committed to doing everything possible to make this a positive experience for everyone involved.
How long will a child be here?
Although some medical treatments allow for a shorter stay, periods of treatment typically last three to six months. The child will reside with their Host Family during the entire period of their stay.
What steps are required to become a Host Family?
Interested families are asked to complete a Host Family Application. The application process involves a required police record check (including a child abuse check) and three letters of recommendation. Another important piece to the process is a home visit by a Healing the Children representative. Host Family applicants will be interviewed in an effort to learn more about the family and determine eligibility. During the home visit, the prospective family is given detailed information about the responsibilities involved, and through the process, we learn more about the best fit for child and Host Family.
When Healing the Children sends a team of surgeons to a remote area to perform over a hundred operations in just a few days, or brings a critically ill child to the United States for treatment that's unavailable in their home country, we don't do it in a vacuum and we don't do it alone. We couldn't possibly accomplish the work we do without the help and support of our international partners.
Our partners around the world include government officials and agencies, NGO's and community organizations, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities, as well as medical professionals and other individuals interested in the health and well-being of children. They help to identify and screen patients, coordinate facilities, transportation, and logistics, provide preparation and crucial follow up care, and a host of other services that are necessary for the smooth and successful accomplishment of our goals.
While providing care for children is the primary focus, our international partnerships also give us extraordinary opportunities for the exchange of information and understanding. Whether it's during formal in-service sessions, in the course of working together to provide care for patients, or simply spending time together, the chances we have for cultural exchange and for sharing information, skills, and techniques are priceless.
Dr. Ryan Brown, founder of the
new Rocky Mountains Chapter
One of the best ways for us to significantly increase the number of children that we can help is by expanding into areas of the country where we currently do not have a chapter. New chapters not only provide more programs and personnel for helping kids, but open new opportunities to reach medical volunteers and facilities in their local communities.
Healing the Children currently has 14 chapters covering 20 states, but there are still many areas of the country where we could build new programs.
We are especially targeting areas of the country where we know there are medical communities that would align well with the goals of our organization. Some of these specific areas are:
Chapters are started and run by people from your local community. To begin you need to identify and create a “founding group” consisting of at least two people. One is a person from the community who is willing to serve as the Executive Director and be responsible for managing the executional responsibilities of a chapter. The second is a person from your medical community who believes they can marshal other pediatric healthcare professionals and hospitals who want to help children.
Larger founding groups are fine but representation of both skill sets - executive and medical - are needed to set up and run a successful chapter. Members of your founding group should be willing to make a minimum two year commitment. Once your application is approved by the national board, you will be assigned a mentor and begin the process of developing programs for children. This phase has been carefully designed to get you quickly but surely to the point where your chapter can begin helping children directly.
Healing the Children has several different programs for providing medical care to underserved children both internationally and domestically. You will begin by executing a project for children using one of these well-established programs.
Our International Inbound Program is well developed with years of experience behind our operational protocols. It's success depends upon having pediatric hospitals within your chapter’s area that are willing to participate and accept cases you may present to them from time to time.
Our Outbound Medical Teams serve children in medically underserved areas around the world. This program depends upon your ability to encourage and solicit pediatric specialists to join as volunteers for this program. Collectively, Healing the Children conducts and manages over 50 such outbound medical teams per year. So again, we have a wealth of standard operating procedures and protocols to help you succeed.
Many of our chapters provide medical support for American kids in their own communities. There are also additional efforts underway that help our international partners develop crucial infrastructure or obtain urgently needed medical supplies and equipment; cooperating with international medical professionals to provide treatment for kids abroad; engaging medical schools in providing educational outreach for medical communities in developing nations.
With the help of your mentor, you will decide which of these programs you are best positioned to carry out. Each chapter develops its own programs to help underserved children from among these programs and others, based on the resources available. In order to be recognized as a Full Chapter, you will need to be able to develop some of these programs within your own geographic area.
Join us and get involved with the hundreds of volunteers around the country who all band together to help improve the lives of children. To get started contact us and find out more about what it takes to set up your own chapter of Healing the Children.
More Children Still Need Help
Healing the Children has 16 chapters around the country providing urgent medical care to children around the corner and around the world.
But there is a need for more.
New Chapters of Healing the Children can help us to bring hope and healing to even more children around the world.