I always come away from these weeks just overloaded with thoughts and emotions.  There are thoughts of what we can do better as a team, and there are always concerns over what more could have been done to help.  That’s the way it should be…  Service work is like that…  No matter how effective a team is, there will always be more work to be done. 

However, as I reflect on the week on the morning after our final clinic for this trip, my heart is so full. 

I am filled with hope because this week we saw first-hand that this model truly works.  We saw that when we committed to a group of people, when we followed through with our plan to return to the exact same communities, we created buy in, found trust, and strengthened relationships.

I am filled with gratitude for the gift of seeing some of our friends in these communities.  So many familiar faces, from community leaders to health promoters, were there to greet us with open arms and wide smiles.  So many familiar patients were there to greet us with a high five and a fist bump.  So many mothers were there, ready to talk and to listen, and to show their appreciation for our team. 

I feel guilt as well…  more than a little bit.  This community will never know how much more they are giving me than I am giving them.  I learn so much from their dedication to their families. They are the gold standard at showing me what it is like to live in community.  They live in the moment and with contentment… I am humbled by so much that I experience here.  

And I am filled with love for another new family that has come together on this trip.  I am always amazed at how strong a bond forms between a group of people after just one week.  We arrive with little real knowledge about each other.  We spend a week serving together, sharing meals, sharing time, sharing stories, and we leave as family.

I know from past experience that as the next days and weeks pass, that these emotions are just scratching the surface.  There will be so many more feelings.  But I welcome them all.  It will not be long at all until I start to feel the pull to come back.  And true to Extra Mile’s mission, I will.

Jeff Mapp MD, MBA

Co-Founder - Extra Mile Pediatrics