By Katie Windham, ReSurge office volunteer
I first became aware of ReSurge about three years ago, in the spring of my eighth grade year. I was stressed about a school assignment, one of the biggest of the year. We were supposed to write a biography about someone we knew who inspired us, and I was determined to find the perfect person. When my mom mentioned Sara Anderson, ReSurge’s chief communications and advocacy officer, I knew my search was over.
I had known Sara for a number of years, since she married one of my parents’ best friends, but in eighth grade I probably knew more about her dog than I did about her work. Pretty much the only thing I knew was that she had gone to Nepal to help burn victims, which I thought was the coolest thing ever.
In the weeks that followed, I got a slightly better idea of what ReSurge did. I was appalled to learn of how common burn injuries were, especially in India. I found myself thinking, time and time again, but my great-grandmother cooked over an open fire in a sari! What if something had happened to her? Would my grandmother even have been born? Would I? The fact that there were people living with that reality every day horrified me.
A lot of things have changed for me since the end of eighth grade. I started high school, then moved across the country to the Washington, DC metro area. But I never could forget what I had learned about burn victims and their struggles. We haven’t been able to see Sara and her family as much since we moved, but when I decided I wanted to volunteer somewhere this summer, she was one of the first people I thought of.
I didn’t want to go just anywhere; I wanted someplace where everyone was focused on making a difference in the world, where they changed people’s lives. ReSurge was the perfect option.
Coming into this internship, I thought I knew what ReSurge did. There were people in developing countries who were born with clefts or who accidentally burned themselves. ReSurge did plastic surgery to help them. Sitting comfortably in the US, I understood that this work was important, but in the same way that I know that unicorns are beautiful. I had so much distance from the problem that I couldn’t fully understand it until I started volunteering and looking through patient stories.
That was when I realized that they’re not just using plastic surgery to make someone look better – they are literally turning that person’s life around.
I don’t know anything about surgery. I have never suffered the stigma of a cleft, or had a burn that a little cold water couldn’t fix. But all it takes is a pair of eyes to understand the immense importance of what ReSurge does. Just in the couple of weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve learned so much, both about the countries and patients they work with and about how organizations like ReSurge are run, and I’m so grateful to everyone here for the chance to help them.
Katie has been volunteering this summer with the ReSurge communications team at our office in Sunnyvale, CA.