Natasha Serba takes a suitcase to Puerto Vallarta

Inspiring experience and reflection from Natasha Serba, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico:

“My stepmother lives in Puerto Vallarta and I had the opportunity to meet one her friends, a local person named Tony, who helped us find the Hospital Regional de Puerta Vallarta. He explained to us that it is now at a new location because two years ago the previous location was closed. He said that the original plan was to open the new hospital and keep the older hospital in operation as well, in order to accommodate the increased need. However, once the new hospital opened, the older hospital closed, so there is not enough space for all the patients in need. In fact, when I asked the person in the Social Development office (to whom I delivered the medical supplies) if there were any specific items the hospital was in need of, she said that what they really need are more beds for patients.

My biggest adventure (or challenge) came from dealing with customs officers on my trip. At Pearson airport the US Customs agent I spoke to asked me why I needed to bring three suitcases with me on a one week trip to Mexico. He also asked what I do for a living and why a librarian was bringing medical supplies to Mexico. I was a little intimidated by his questions, but after I explained that I was bringing medical supplies to donate to a local hospital, everything was fine.
Fortunately I speak Spanish so I was able to explain why I was bringing medical supplies to Mexico, give background on your organization, and answer their questions.

When I arrived at the Hospital Regional de Puerto Vallarta and saw how great the need was, I felt that the whole experience was worth it. When we walked in the entrance, there were a number of people sitting– and even laying– on the floor waiting to be admitted. There just aren’t enough beds available in the hospital to accommodate the need. The Social Development person I met said that there are about 180 doctors who work at the hospital. Because my stepmother had a couple of doctors appointments during the week I was there, I also had the opportunity to see the difference between private medical clinics and the public hospital to which I delivered the medical supplies. The private medical clinics look brand new, have clean and comfortable waiting rooms, and superior facilities. The public hospital I visited appeared very basic and was overcrowded, with patients waiting on the floor in the corridor because there didn’t appear to be a waiting room for them.

I wanted the opportunity to make a positive difference in the community I was visiting. For the past five years or so I’ve been spending part of my summer holidays visiting countries in Central and South America (Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia). During my travels I have seen some pretty tough conditions that local people live in.

When I heard about the work that Not Just Tourists is doing to make a difference in communities around the world, I knew that I wanted to get involved. I also knew that on my visit to Mexico I would only need to bring a small carry-on bag of clothing so I knew I could easily bring an additional suitcase full of medical supplies. Luckily my ticket allowed me to check three bags without fees because my stepmother’s gifts filled an entire suitcase on their own! I hope that I have the opportunity to deliver medical supplies again in the future.”

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