By Wyatt Goolsby
ODESSA - A group of Odessa doctors and nurses will soon head halfway around the world. This year, nearly 30 medical staff will go to Uganda, where there is urgent need for medical care. As NewsWest 9 learned, they have more volunteers than ever before.
"It is a blessing to be able to go there, and work with people who trust you immediately. Enough to let you care for them," Beverly Lyons, a Medical Center Hospital nurse and Uganda volunteer, said.
Every year, doctors and nurses from Odessa volunteer to treat hundreds for free in Uganda. This year, they have a total of 27, the most they've ever brought. For some, it's their first time going.
"One, I want to travel, and this was an excellent way for me to get to see sites, and do some good at the same time," Vonda Duncan, a registered nurse and first time Volunteer, explained. "The need over there is so great."
The program is done through Mercy Trips Healthcare Outreach, which puts volunteers in places where some natives may have been to the doctor before.
"We send teams to the villages," Lyons said. "The villages would be comparable to the rural areas. Very rural. That's where they live in the little huts with the thatched rooftops."
Lyons herself volunteered in Uganda in past years. She said it's a tough job treating hundreds of people a day, which is why she said she's happy more medical staff are volunteering to come along.
"It's pretty exciting," Lyons said. "We're very excited to have two groups in the villages while you have an operating room group. Yeah, I'm very excited."
"The first thing they say, when you do something, they bow down," Mattie Justice, a registered nurse, described. "They take your hand and they say 'Thank you.' And your like 'Oh my God, I haven't done anything.'"
Justice said each and every year, the Ugandans seem thankful when the Americans come. It's just another reason they keep going back.
"When you enter the Kingdom of Heaven, God asks, 'What did you do my child?' Well, then you can look back and say, this I did," Justice said. "And this is why each and every one of us go to support someone who is in need."
"People in Uganda are very gracious. Very trusting," Lyons added. "Just wonderful people, and they await our arrival."
Volunteers said they get the money to pay for the trip and medical supplies through sponsors, donations, and other fund-raising activities. The medical group will be in Uganda for about two weeks from January 23rd to February 8th.