Kimberly Smith in Empalme de Boaco, Nicaragua
In some families the expectations are for the children to be doctors or lawyers, in our family the expectation was always that we give back to our world and our community. Not that giving was your primary job, just that giving should always be part of anything you choose to do.
In college I studied business and political science and graduated with the opportunity to go work with my husband in a small woman-owned real estate corporate housing business in San Francisco.
Two years into this adventure my father, who was only 53 years old, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a few months. His life story was one of overcoming adversity and giving back. So it was quite a shock that at the young age of 53 his life would end so abruptly. I got angry at our imperfect world, but I also thought if I am here on this earth for 27 years, 53 years or 100 years I better make sure I make a “contribution” to this world.
I abruptly quit my job, decided to move back to Denver, and my husband and I decided to start our own real estate corporate housing business. Over the years we did better than most, started two more businesses and continue to run those now 15 years later. But the large cash bucket we had originally envisioned never materialized. What I did realize during those years is the importance to give what you can now and not just wait for some big event in the future. So I challenged myself to figure out what I could do to support my community and my world at each stage of my life and not just at some future point in time.
I came to learn about Clinica Verde and was invited to join the Board for their annual meeting in Nicaragua. As a mother of two young boys my free time was limited, but I decided a 4-day trip to Nicaragua was something I could do and was the best gift I could give to myself. The next challenge for me was what could I do that fit my limited budget but might be helpful. Not a doctor, I didn’t know where to find medical supplies and I thought there had to be something I could bring with me. I learned that in Nicaragua the kids played baseball and there was even a local baseball field and team. As the mother of two boys who played baseball this was something I was familiar with.
When I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua I was carrying over 100 pounds of baseball equipment.
During our trip to the clinic we met with a local baseball team and had the opportunity to share the items directly with the children. We all had a great time tossing the balls, wearing new hats and laughing a lot. It was a great way to get to know the community we served and support their local recreation.
During this time I was traveling with the Board of Directors for Clinica Verde that also included a number of doctors. The meeting site chosen for me to meet with the baseball team was in front of a family’s home in a rural community outside Boaco where the clinic is located. While I was playing baseball, the doctors went inside to meet with the family. In the home there was a young teenage girl who had recently given birth via c-section and the doctors discovered her incision was deeply infected. The doctors we able to help care for the infection and coordinate for her to visit Clinica Verde.
Some time later I was speaking with Clinica Verde founder Susan Dix Lyons and inquired after the girl’s health. Susan let me know the girl was doing fine. She had come to the clinic and the infection was gone. However, Susan went on to tell me the girl had stolen some surgical gloves during her visit. Shocked I was very confused at why someone who had just been given so much would steal something as small as surgical gloves. Susan went on to tell me the girl had stolen the gloves to fill up with clean water from the clinic to take home to the child. Wow, in that one moment I got some glimpse of how important Clinica Verde was to that community, how even a small amount of clean water could make a difference in someone’s life.
What I first was attracted to with Clinica Verde was how they were able, in just a few short years, to conceive an idea, develop that idea and create a vibrant structure, health system, community center and vision for the future. As we progress with the development of the Boaco facility I develop an even greater appreciation for all the details that the founder’s vision for Clinica Verde incorporated from the water system that now waters the organic garden to the open courtyard that supports educational events. I appreciated that the vision for the first Clinica Verde clinic was to create a “prototype” on which to develop a larger system of clinics that can deliver “Heath and Hope” wherever they are built.
I know the Boaco Clinic is the first, but really it is the foundation on which successful clinics and health cares systems and services can be developed. I appreciate now that “contribution” to our world can be done one small step at a time.