(Above: Juliana Hernandez heads to Nicaragua with AmeriCares)

By Juliana Hernandez

As a sponsor of the AmeriCares Airlift Benefit, Time Warner invited employees to enter for the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the benefit this past Saturday and then immediately after travel with AmeriCares to Nicaragua for a 24-hour journey to see first-hand the work that the non-profit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization does there.

I was selected to attend the 2014 AmeriCares Airlift Benefit, which turned out to be an experience chock-full of firsts. To name a few: it was my first time in an airplane hangar; my first encounter with AmeriCares; the organization named its first celebrity ambassador, actor Tony Goldwyn; and it was the first AmeriCares Airlift Benefit with its newly named President and CEO, Michael J. Nyenhuis.

To say I was impressed with all that occurred in Nicaragua during my short visit would be an understatement. The impact that AmeriCares has on the lives of thousands each day was immediately evident and striking. We entered the extended care housing unit of the Hospital Bertha Calderon, a national reference hospital for women, and were greeted by 30 patients and their relatives with a traditional dance that our male attendees were eagerly invited to join. Two women gifted our group with handmade pop-up cards adorned with the Nicaraguan flag, flower and bird, which they learned to make as a part of their holistic cancer treatment.

My favorite part of the trip was the visit to the Dispensario Médico Cristo Obrero run by Sister Trinidad, a medical clinic that serves the 15,000-20,000 residents of the San Isidro de Bolas neighborhood. Attached to a church, a dining hall that feeds 200+ children each day and a K-12 school for 550 local students, the clinic operates on a volunteer basis in a small, but efficient space. AmeriCares donated two-thirds of the medical supplies in the pharmacy. The remaining medications are available to patients at cost, but in a country where the vast majority are living on $2 a day, paying for even the cheapest medicine is a financial burden. I admired the fact that the clinic doesn’t turn away any patients or deny medication due to an inability to pay. One client, waiting for a tooth extraction, shared with us her nearly 40-year history with the clinic since its founding in 1975, treating each of her six children.

As a non-profit emergency response and global health organization operating in every state in the U.S. and in 95 countries, AmeriCares aligns itself with local organizations to expand its reach and strengthen its impact. In Nicaragua, American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF) is one such partner. Its multipronged approach targets sustainable human development by way of health, education, nutrition and housing and community building. Working together, both organizations have the means to do more.   

As I returned home from Westchester Airport, I truly felt AmeriCares embodies its slogan: “A passion to help. The ability to deliver.” Everyone I met on the trip is committed to the organization and, from what I saw, they’ve developed the partnerships and logistical structure to deliver to the most remote and underserved areas in the world. For many, this was their second, third and fourth airlift and they invited everyone else to see their progress thus far, but also to see the remaining need. I’m thankful to Time Warner’s Corporate Responsibility volunteerism efforts for making this trip possible via their CR VIP Raffles and to Bill and Rose Krivoshik, Time Warner’s CIO and his wife, for getting our company involved with this organization.