Lo­cal fam­ily em­barks on med­i­cal mis­sion trip to Bhutan

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

R OCKWALL, TX – Feb. 3, 2017) Trav­el­ing has al­ways been some­thing near and dear in the hearts of Bill and Jen­nifer Byer. In fact, Bill said he and Jen­nifer have a sort of love af­fair with the Hi­malayas – it’s where they first met, af­ter all.

“I was at­tempt­ing to ride a bi­cy­cle from Lhasa, Ti­bet to Kathmandu, Nepal, and we hap­pened to stay in the same guest house,” Bill said. “Be­ing the only North Amer­i­cans in the room, we met, chitchat­ted and re­ally con­nected.”

On Feb. 27 Bill and Jen­nifer will once more travel to the Hi­malayas to the land- locked king­dom of Bhutan, this time with their three young daugh­ters in tow, on a fam­ily med­i­cal mis­sion trip as vol­un­teers of the Health Vol­un­teers Over­seas pro­gram ( HVO).

HVO is a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that seeks to im­prove global health through ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams train­ing lo­cal health care work­ers in re­source- scarce coun­tries. Ac­cord­ing to its web­site hvousa.org, HVO has helped ex­pand ac­cess to health care in nu­mer­ous coun­tries through the com­ple­tion of more than 10,000 vol­un­teer as­sign­ments. HVO sup­port in­cludes clin­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, cur­ric­ula de­vel­op­ment or up­dat­ing, fac­ulty men­tor­ing, co- teach­ing of new con­tent, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, fund­ing at­ten­dance at pro­fes­sional meet­ings or work­shops, de­vel­op­ing pro­to­cols, and/ or pro­vid­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als such as text­books, manikins, jour­nals, in­ter­net ac­cess and more.

Bill, who works as a CRNA ( Cer­ti­fied Reg­is­tered Nurse Anes­thetist) at Hunt Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Greenville, said they learned about the Health Vol­un­teers Over­seas about six years ago while he was in anes­the­sia school, and that over time they steadily warmed up to the idea of do­ing vol­un­teer work for the pro­gram in Bhutan.

“When we had kids, we knew we al­ways wanted them to be able to travel and see the world but through a kind of ser­vice, giv­ing-back modal­ity. When I went to anes­the­sia school we heard about this pro­gram, and it’s al­ways been in the back of our minds,” Bill said.

The king­dom of Bhutan is lo­cated within the east­ern por­tion of the Hi­malayan moun­tain range be­tween Ti­bet to the north, As­sal to the south, West Ben­gal to the east and Sikkim to the west. The ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion live on small fam­ily farms, with farm­ing be­ing the most com­mon oc­cu­pa­tion of the Bhutanese peo­ple.

While in Bhutan, Bill will be work­ing with HVO teach­ing anes­the­sia stu­dents at the Na­tional Re­fer­ral Hospi­tal in Thim­phu, the cap­i­tal. Jen­nifer and her three daugh­ters – twins Is­abella and Lily ( 9) and Stella ( 5) – will help stu­dents at a lo­cal school with their read­ing skills, and will also visit with the chil­dren hos­pi­tal­ized far from their homes in the Pe­di­atric Depart­ment at the Na­tional Re­fer­ral Hospi­tal. Is­abelle, Lily and Stella will also have the op­por­tu­nity to as­sist a vet­eri­nar­ian in the care of cats, dogs, and mon­keys.

“The twins are mostly ex­cited about work­ing with the vet­eri­nar­ian and the mon­keys,” Jen­nifer said. “And Stella’s just ex­cited about getting to help peo­ple.”

Even be­fore she met Bill, Jen­nifer al­ways looked for ways to serve oth­ers in her trav­els abroad. She grew up in New Brunswick, the only con­sti­tu­tion­ally bilin­gual ( English- French) prov­ince in Canada, and has taught English as a Sec­ond Lan­guage ( ESL) in Japan, Nicaragua and Nepal, and lo­cally in At­lanta.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to learn more than one lan­guage,” Jen­nifer said. “English seems to be the only univer­sal lan­guage, so I think it’s fun to be able to share that and teach that to other peo­ple, es­pe­cially kids be­cause they pick it up eas­ily.”

Jen­nifer said she’s very much look­ing for­ward to teach­ing an­other one of her pas­sions – yoga – at a preschool lo­cated next to the hospi­tal dur­ing her time in Bhutan. Jen­nifer is a cer­ti­fied yoga in­struc­tor and owns a mo­bile stu­dio called YoPlay Yoga for Kids, which pro­vides yoga in­struc­tion to kids of all ages in Rock­wall and the sur­round­ing DFW area.

The By­ers set off for Bhutan on Feb. 27 and will be gone ap­prox­i­mately seven weeks.

As a Bhutanese visa for non- tourist vol­un­teers re­quires an in­coun­try stay of 36 days, the trip will mean a five- week un­paid sab­bat­i­cal for Bill. The By­ers have set up a GoFundMe and ap­pre­ci­ate any of­fer­ings made to help off­set this ex­pense.

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