Toothbrushes. Running water. Medical care. In America, these things are commonplace, a part of daily life people don’t stop to think about. In the summer, tourists visit beautiful, tropical beaches without thinking about the people who actually live there. For those people, it is not a location for a paradise vacation; it is their home where they lack the basic necessities that Americans take for granted.
“It’s not like what you see on television, like on Wheel of Fortune, with the nice beaches and clear water. It’s dirt floors, tin roofs, and a lot of people without shoes or basic necessities that we’re used to having. But it’s normal to them and they’re all just happy people; it’s very different.”
This is how Braden Bomnskie describes Belize, a country he visits every summer with his sister, Kambrie, on a medical mission. They go each summer to help the people in Belize living in poor conditions.
Braden and Kambrie’s grandfather ended up leading a medical mission to Belize many years ago, and over the last decade, they have traveled with him.
“We travel with different doctors, dentists, and pharmacists because the health care in Belize is really bad and they don’t have access to many medicines,” Kambrie said. “We provide medical care for them and perform surgeries and other medical check-ups.”
Each year, the group helps about 5,000 people, with around 300 to 400 people per village. They set their clinic up in schools and help as many people as they can in each location. The group relies on donations to cover the cost of the trip.
“There’s a lot of donations that go into paying for the medicine and supplies,” Braden said. “We reach out across the country to clubs and communities in different areas that donate. We usually pay for our own trips, and I mow yards to save up for it.”
Going to Belize has been a growing experience for the siblings as they learn how they can hel.
“It took me about five years of going on the missions before they let me start doing more specialized work,” Kambrie said. “Now I get to help with dental work by cleaning teeth and triaging people. I get to know what their problems are and that helps the doctors process each patient.”
Helping others can be difficult, but Kambrie and Braden enjoy working together and having an impactful experience as a family.
“My whole family goes since we’re all old enough now,” Braden said. “Getting out of the normal routine in Bryan and getting to see how we can be happier with less and experiencing that as a family is important.”
Even with their family there to help, there are many challenges they face on the medical mission. Work was made more difficult last year for the missionaries because of COVID. They had to wear masks which made it difficult to breathe in the humidity and also made communication more difficult than it already was.
“Language is a huge barrier in Belize,” Kambrie said. “Not many people can speak Spanish on our team, so it’s nice that I can because it helps others feel more comfortable.”
There are also challenges caused by their own struggles and dislikes.
“The worst part is the humidity and the mosquitoes,” Braden said. “The mosquitoes look like hummingbirds, and it’s more humid than it is here since it’s a tropical area.”
Kambrie struggles with facing the people they have to turn away.
“There’s a lot of people who want more than we can give them,” Kambrie said. “There’s a limited amount of resources and a ton of people, so we can’t help everyone. We instead have to send them with what we have left and encourage them to come back next year.”
Kambrie also doesn’t like how limited they are in what they can do and what problems they can help with.
“The worst part is we have a lot of people that, even if we try to, we can’t help them,” Kambrie said. “We can’t help every single person for every single thing. We can’t ship everyone who needs prosthetic legs back to the U.S. to get them. Even next year it’s not always possible for us to help. We place an order in the U.S. and ship supplies down and try to get people what they need, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Despite these challenges, it has become a tradition they have come to enjoy.
“It’s a good experience,” Braden said. “The first year I went, I got hooked into it. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but when I went, I got attached to the people. That’s just how it is there.”
They serve people of all ages, but for Kambrie, the best part is the smiles of the kids she helps, one in particular. She enjoys seeing a 13 year old boy named Alexi who has cerebral palsy, which makes him unable to walk or talk.
“Every year we bring Alexi a wheelchair and this year, for his birthday, we brought him a Kindle, so he’s learning how to talk with it to communicate,” Kambrie said. “He’s very expressive, if he wants something, he shakes his head. He understands everything, but he’s trapped in his own world, so we’re trying to help him out.”
Although they go on the medical mission as a family, the siblings have different reasons for why they enjoy going each year.
“I go to Belize because it’s a nice tradition to go and see faces that recognize you and hug you.” Kambrie said. “It’s kind of like a new family. I have friends there, lots of people at the church that we go and visit.”
Braden enjoys seeing the effects of the aid he gives to the people in Belize.
“It’s nice to see people get the help that they need because they don’t have much anywhere near what we have here in America,” Braden said. “I like giving them the medicine and help which they would never have otherwise.”
Braden has noticed the effect these trips have had on him and appreciates the improvement he sees.
“I’ve changed a lot as a person,” Braden said. “As a whole, I care a whole lot less about myself, not in a destructive way, but I’m a lot more selfless. I appreciate a lot of what I have and I’m glad I help when I can. There’s more importance in my life now.”
Kambrie appreciates the medical missions and sees how they will impact her future.
“I want to keep going,” Kambrie said. “I want to get more and more practice so that whenever I do go to college I have more experience and am ready to go into my career. I want to be an oral surgeon because that’s what I help out with, so it’s something that’s piqued my interests. I want to do medical missions throughout my whole life.”
Both siblings enjoy helping others each summer and encourage everyone to do more themselves.
“You should take the chance to get out and do something, not even out of the country, just here, around town,” Braden said. “There’s lots of opportunities to help people that would appreciate it and it will make you feel good.”