Many of you write to us asking about our expeditions and how to participate. In this post we would like to talk to you about what our volunteers do when they are on an expedition, what needs they have to cover and what requirements they must have to be able to participate in any of them
Let’s start at the beginning and with the simplest of things, what type of volunteers are we looking for at Elena Barraquer Foundation and what training do they need to have? When we travel we need 5 types of volunteers:
- Ophthalmologist surgeons: Those in charge of performing the surgeries on the expeditions, normally 2 to 4 surgeons travel depending on the type of expedition.
- Clinical ophthalmologists: They are the ones who make the consultations prior to the surgeries and decide who goes to the operating theatre and how. We normally have 1 or 2 clinical ophthalmologists.
- Instrumentalists: Nurses who specialise in ophthalmic surgery. One per surgeon.
- Anaesthesiologists: Usually one, except on large expeditions where two travel.
- Field assistants: This is where most questions arise about who can be a field volunteer and where we will have the most fun. Who can be a field volunteer?
- Who: Anyone with the ability to help, work and organisational skills.
- Age: Age does not matter, we have had students, retired people…. We do ask for a minimum age of 20 years. We need volunteers with energy and stamina.
- Training: To be a field assistant on our expeditions you don’t need medical training or anything similar. We simply need people who are hard-working and willing to give their all and to help in whatever they are needed.
Now that we have a general picture of who are the volunteers who are part of our solidarity expeditions, we are going to tell you what the expeditions consist of to give you an idea of the tasks to be carried out.
The expeditions start in Barcelona, where the Foundation’s headquarters are located. The Fundación team is the one who, prior to the trip, organises all the logistics, from visas, plane tickets, suitcases with medical material, accommodation, transport to the place of destination, diets, etc.
On the day of departure, the team meets at the airport, always uniformed in the Foundation clothing that we have previously sent to you from the Foundation. It is at the airport that the volunteers who are travelling with us for the first time realise the magnitude of the expedition. More than 20 suitcases per expedition, a special desk provided by the airlines we collaborate with and a team of people ready to give their best.
In every expedition there is always a person in charge of the Foundation who organises the team so that nothing goes wrong from the moment we leave until we arrive back at the point of origin. This person is the key to making sure that everything works and goes according to plan, which is why it is very important to always listen to his or her recommendations.
Once we arrive in the country of destination we do not work alone, we always have a local counterpart who will help us find our way in the country, help us with the logistics, with the search for patients and, once we have landed, they are our right hand.
The days following our arrival will be hard days, a lot of work, long days, few breaks, but they will be very rewarding days that every volunteer will take with them as a memory of something wonderful. Normally the days are divided into:
- Day 1: assembly of the operating theatres and organisation of all the medical material and distribution of tasks for each part.
- Days 2 to 6 approx.: these are days of surgeries, these days are key, the more united the team is, the better they work and the better coordinated they are, the more cataracts they will be able to operate on.
- Day 7: it is time to dismantle the entire operating theatre, put all the material back in place and return home having lived a unique experience.
It is true that not everything is work and that there is a time to disconnect, to make new friends and to see new sunrises.
And I could go on telling you about the thousand and one benefits of travelling with our Foundation, but I think words are too short, if you feel that little itch in your stomach of wanting to do something different, if every time you see a video of us on social networks your eyes fill with emotion, it’s your time, fill out this form and live with us a unique and authentic adventure.
We are waiting for you!