30 01 2011

A year ago I had an overwhelming and frightening pull at my soul to go to Haiti. There were calls going out across the world for volunteers, supplies and help. I felt that I had something of value to give and I could actually provide something worthwhile. They need Physical Therapists. I thought, I can do this… I can help.

And I talked about it. And thought about it. And I researched some organizations with various opportunities available. One of the orthopedic surgery groups in town has several surgeons who volunteer their services in trips to Haiti throughout the year, so I got my name on their email list. I scoured the American Physical Therapy Association website for information about organized missions. Friends passed along Facebook pages and blogs (The Greene Team in Haiti, etc) chronicalling groups of medical professionals making their way to make a difference in Haiti. I was excited and ready and I really wanted to go too.

Then… well, I don’t even really know what happened… it just sort of faded away.

Until now.

My friend, a fellow PT, shared a link that had been posted on Facebook (what a remarkable social media outlet!) with another call for PTs to come to Haiti. I can do this… I can help. This plea comes from an organization called Physicians for Peace in collaboration with their Walking Free program on a new campaign in Haiti. The Walking Free program donates prostheses and adaptive equipment as well as provides rehabilitation and training by a volunteer medical staff including prosthetists and PTs.

I’m starting to feel that pull again. I spent the better part of last night poring over the Walking Free blog posts from PTs and other volunteers, absorbing every word and every emotional tale. It wasn’t enough. I can’t even begin to fathom the logistics of a trip like this. But there’s a 10-day trip at the beginning of April. I’m excited and ready and I really want to go too.

Obviously there is a lot more to this than just booking a plane ticket. I have a full-time job here, and a very limited amount of time-off available to me. Is there a little-known benefit for a humanitarian sabbatical? Will they drain my banked PTO hours, in effect ruining the rest of my meticulously planned year? Will they let me take a week off without pay? Can I afford to take a week off without pay? (What a bittersweet dilemma of luxury!) Would they even consider me “qualified” with the little experience I have with prosthetics and amputees? Is my desire to help great enough to overcome my inexperience?

Time to make a list…

1) Contact the volunteer coordinator at Physicians for Peace to express my interest and determine my eligibility and qualification to make this trip.

2) Contact HR at Piedmont for answers to questions regarding use of PTO, leave of absence, employee assistance for humanitarian missions, etc.

3) Contact my former boss. I had spoken to her candidly last year about my desire to go to Haiti, and would value her insight as to the steps to take as well as advice and recommendations for contacts in the organization who may help me to facilitate my plans.

4) Contact my supervisor and manager. I want to have as much information and as many answers in my hands as possible before approaching them. Past experiences here have taught me that I will get a “no” unless I already have a “yes” from someone higher up the ladder. So that “yes” is absolutely vital to my cause.

I know there are at least 47 more steps in this process… but these four are the beginning of something just incredible. And in this, The Year of Kristen, I don’t want to pass on this amazing opportunity a second time.