Congratulations! You wrapped up your medical mission trip and your body is exhausted, your head is spinning, your heart is beyond full, and you are more inspired than ever. It is time to wrap up the final loose ends and you need to pack. Instantly, the thought of leaving everything behind for those in need pops into your head. The thought of simplifying and limiting your personal belongings is exhilarating and to be honest, you are probably too exhausted and emotionally drained to think about packing and lugging anything that heavy around until you get to the airport. And just like that you ask, “What do I leave behind?”
Hopefully you only packed what you needed and what had a useful purpose. Have a real heart to heart with yourself. Make a point to honor your temporary destination and not make it dumping ground for items you no longer want and/or don’t need. Here are some suggested categories to group your belongings and really ask yourself what purpose do these items serve?
– Health / Sanitation
– Entertainment / Clothing
Health / Sanitation
Health and sanitation is a self-explanatory category. Do you have bottles of soap and toothpaste, or feminine hygiene products? What about unused, sealed medication? Confirm with the facility that it is okay to leave behind unopened and unused medicines. This may be a great addition, even in small amounts if it is a highly counterfeited pharmaceutical, specifically anti-malarial medication.
Look at the quantities of the liquids you have available. If you are leaving an opened or mostly used item, you will also be leaving behind additional plastic containers with no real place to be disposed. Will this be helpful or hurtful? Try to make a conscious effort to leave as little waste as possible. Take your empty plastic bottles home. Don’t leave plastic shopping bags behind. Some countries no longer allow the use of plastic grocery and shopping bags and you can be fined for bringing them in country. For instance, Kenya banned plastic bags because of the amount of waste they create.
Medical Supplies & Accessories
Do you have additional medical supplies and or accessories? Are the packages unopened? Please be sure to check the expiration date to see how long the product can be stored before the recommended expiration date. If you have equipment that requires batteries, do you have batteries to leave? Do the local staff members know how to use the equipment? Don’t underestimate leaving behind more basic pieces of equipment including surgical gloves, stethoscopes, thermometers, and other diagnostic equipment.
Utilitarian equipment can be a wonderful gift to leave. Did you bring items such as tools? Do you have pieces of durable luggage and or bags that will go home empty? What items serve a true purpose? Locals will certainly put various types of tools to great, long term use. If the tools are manual and not powered, even better! We found a valued item that takes up little space in a bag is Velcro. It is amazing what can be constructed with heavy duty Velcro.
Entertainment / Clothing
As the trip concludes and you decide to cutback on packing, unwanted clothing and shoes are a nice grouping of items to leave. I always bring a few pairs of lightly used kids’ shoes and a pair of tennis shoes with me. I would not recommend bringing overused and worn out items. Once again, your short-term mission destination should not be a dumping ground for items at the end of life. People will use these items for many years.
If you have room in your suitcase for entertainment items, you may want to bring some deflated soccer balls/footballs. Don’t just bring the balls, but also consider bringing a small handheld pump to inflate them. The toys will allow you to burn off some steam and relax while you are there, and the sports equipment will also give you a great way to interact with locals. Someone will put these fun items to use long after you are back home.
For information on purchasing equipment for medical missions, non-profits and disaster relief efforts, contact Amanda Cannady via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 502-253-4151 ext. 266.
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