During the first week of May, Univera Associates and Corporate Staff accompanied Serve First’s partner, Vitamin Angels, on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Though Univera has assisted Serve First on several of these trips, the DR was a first for Univera. While there, the Associates witnessed the mission of Serve First played out in real time, as the lives of some very deserving children were impacted with the gift of essential, life-giving micronutrients.
Below, is a summary of one Associate’s experience:
Dr. Katrina McGillivray
What an awesome experience!
My patients and family know I rarely take vacations and would much rather participate in the mission trip when I need a change of pace. The best way for me to get energized is to spend time being a blessing to others. So when I had the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic last April to visit mothers and children receiving vitamins through Vitamin Angels’ program, supported by Univera Serve First, I was thrilled!
I felt a rush when we interviewed mothers and held their babies and played ball with their children. Seeing the impact that multi-vitamins can do for appetites, recurrent infections and days missed from school and pre-term pregnancies was overwhelming.
It is humbling to realize that while I sit by my computer eating a Panera sandwich, we have so much, while others subsist on a diet primarily of rice, beans, and vegetables only afforded 1-2 times per week. Yet such a small amount of help, in the form of daily multivitamins, makes a life changing difference.
I saw the difference that our smiles and compassion made for the community as mothers opened up to us. It is true that people need to know that other individuals care and that there is half of the healing.
We saw three villages in the Dominican Republic, each one a little better off than the previous. Initially we saw a lot of dirt, refuse and fatigue on mothers’ faces and often no spouse present. By the third day, we saw children in school uniforms, showing signs of team work in volleyball and basketball training, dirt yards swept clean and young adults with aspirations of something greater.
One characteristic each village shared was a sense of community and a lack of resources in regards to nutrition and finances. To be even the smallest blessing in the eyes of these people will be a treasure to keep for a lifetime.
The most unexpected blessing was the time we spent with Bill Lee. We talked about Bill as a servant leader and this is in fact one of the reasons why so many join our Univera team. To see this man in action is quite humbling. My sister, Shelly and I filled our large suitcases with soccer balls for the children to play with and Bill helped pump them up on the car ride to the village. Later in the day, he was seated on the ground surrounded by the children and attempted a geography lesson to explain where he was from. The families carried around small Polaroid pictures Bill took of them like precious family portraits. Wow! Who doesn’t stand a little taller, or bend a little lower, in servitude with a leader like that?!
Thanks to an awesome crew from Vitamin Angels and time spent with Founder, Mr. Schiffer and thank you Bill Lee for the wonderful dinners. They will definitely never be forgotten!
In Love and Health,
Katrina McGillivray, DO