The majority of children born today with congenital heart disease will survive if given the proper treatment, but in developing countries, many indigent children that are born with a heart defect are unlikely to receive the care they need.
Heart Care International (HCI) is a non-profit organization that provides pro bono surgical and medical care to children in developing countries.
"We plan to do about 5 trips this year traveling to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Peru, always operating on poor children and young adults who otherwise would have no hope for obtaining this kind of heart care or heart surgery," says Dr. Robert Michler, founder of Heart Care International.
Founded in 1993, the organization has helped more than 1,000 children with heart disease. The team also focuses on the education and training of the host countries medical team so that over time the country can build up a quality program.
"Together we can hopefully bring that next level of care to the country by working with the colleagues," says Dr. Daphne Hsu, keynote speaker for the Heart Care International benefit. "So it's not just going and teaching to people who don't know anything, it's working and collaborating with people to find a common practice in a country that is going to work.
The organization was founded with the support of Second Congregational Church in Greenwich and Saturday evening the church hosted the 12th annual musical benefit for HCI.
"I think this about the 6th or 8th year that we've honored Heart Care International, but it's also for all of the women of the church, so the men do all the work," says Chris Combe, event chair for the Heart Care International benefit.
The event combined singing, dancing, a home-cooked dinner and a concert by the church's Just For Men chorus. The annual dinner at the church shows that you do not need to be a medical professional to be part of the important work.
"It's a wonderful model for doing ministry because congregations are rooted locally in the most deep way and in a place like our congregation that has been here since 1705, our roots in this particular community are very deep and very long, and yet our dreams about making the world a better place are very sincere," says Rev. Maxwell Grant, Senior Minister at the Second Congregational Church. "We can do that for some extent from here but it's really only when members get passionate about a ministry that is somewhere else that takes them somewhere far away that we are able to see that come to fruition in ways that we always dreamed that it will."
We all envision a world where every child has access to health care. Heart Care International is making a difference one operation at a time. Their next mission trip is to Lima, Peru on February 9th.