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Volunteer Mission Work in Peru

By Brian Kobienia, MD, FACS on February 01, 2012


  This past month I had the opportunity to return to Peru to do another mission trip.  The vulnerable poor of Peru with cleft lips, palates and burn scars were given care.  Over the course of the two week program the volunteer plastic surgeons, medical doctors, nurses and other volunteers- who pay their own way- provided surgical care for over 200 patients.  For over thirty years Programa San Fransisco de Asis has provided plastic surgery care for the poor children of Peru- free of charge.  This volunteer service program was started by Dr. Frank Pilney, a St. Paul Plastic Surgeon, over three decades ago.  Since the start of the program nearly 5000 children have had surgical care by Programa San Francisco Asis.  The program has traditionally been set up in Lima but more recently another site, Arequipa, at the foot of several vulcanos, was added.  The poor of Peru are found through outreach programs in local towns and villages in the countryside including the mountain country and up to the Amazon region of Peru near Equador.  These families often travel by primitive means including many hours on foot followed by horse, truck and bus travel from the country to the city.  Lima is a city with a population of 7 million people quite a stark contrast to their usual rural surroundings.  Typically these families from the rural Peru have not seen a modern city before. The volunteers who pay their own travel expenses share their unique skills with the patients whom often have never seen a large city or a “gringo” before.  The gratitude shown to us by the mothers, fathers and the patients is very touching. Eventhough there may be a language barrier, the message of thanks from one person to another is heard loud and clear. These families may be lacking a closet full of the latest fashions, or a closet for that matter, but they still can share love and humbly accept plastic surgical care from Programa San Fransisco de Asis.  Simple things like clean undergarments are things you and I may take for granted but know that when you provide socks, toilletries, underwear, or money you have made a difference in someones life who truly is in need.  Your support can provide supplies for these surgeries.  The address for Programa San Fransisco de Asis is 1867 Warrior Drive, St. Paul, MN  55118 or contact my office.  Thank you.

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