SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—It cruised up and down roadways all over the Ozarks for 11 years, bringing health screenings like mammograms directly to patients who needed them. After logging 146,000 miles, though, Mercy needed to replace the original Wellness on Tour Mobile Health Bus. With the new bus now carrying out the mission, it’s time for the old bus to get its next assignment.
“We knew there was still some use in the old bus,” said Marilyn Hill, administrative director of Mercy Corporate Health and Wellness Springfield. “We tried to find a local organization that could use it to continue care in the Ozarks, but no one felt like they could take it on. That’s when we thought of Project H.O.P.E.”
Project H.O.P.E. (Hear Our Prayers Emmanuel) was established in 1998 after a group of friends in Springfield felt God calling them to help the economically poor in Nicaragua. These days, approximately 500 people travel with Project H.O.P.E. to Nicaragua each year, providing medical and dental care to more than 9,000 people. Over the years, dozens of Mercy doctors, nurses and co-workers have participated in those mission trips. “Patients are given medication for arthritis, hypertension or diabetes or undergo minor procedures that we typically take for granted,” said Mercy cardiologist Dr. Don Myears. “Their gratitude for even a supply of Tylenol or aspirin is both heartwarming and humbling.” Along with medical care, volunteers have also managed to build nearly 1,100 homes, drill more than 10 wells to provide clean water and construct five schools.
Project H.O.P.E. plans to drive the bus to the coast and load it on to a ship that will take it to Nicaragua. It goes out equipped with a mammography unit and exam tables. “The mobile clinic will provide Project H.O.P.E. the ability to care for the poor in rural areas of Nicaragua who would not normally receive it due to lack of resources,” explained Kim Bradley, president of Project H.O.P.E. “Although we’ve been providing care for a number of years, it is limited as the makeshift clinics are not conducive to medical procedures. The mobile unit will provide doctors a sanitary environment in which more in-depth procedures can be performed.”
A key hand-off ceremony in Springfield on Wednesday, Nov. 8 includes Project H.O.P.E.'s medical director, Dr. Melba Barrantes Monge, as well as Mercy caregivers who have volunteered their time in Nicaragua. "It just means so much to have a clean place for simple procedures," said Dr. Monge, with tears in her eyes. "Sometimes we have to use just a tarp."
This bus donation follows the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy, who have always tried to bring care to people where they are. “Just as Mercy took this bus out to our communities, it will now go out to the people of Nicaragua who need medical care,” said Hill. “We are so happy to see its service continue.”