Mission trips for Austin groups slowly coming back during pandemic


AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the last several years, physical therapist Brianna Oliva has been seeing patients both in Austin and Guatemala City.

“There’s one case that always sticks out in my mind because I have been seeing this gentleman for several years now,” Brianna Oliva said.

Oliva is a part of Tesoro Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide healthcare access to those living in poverty. The group works with those who live and work in Guatemala City’s landfill. 

“That is their livelihood to survive and support themselves sort of like a recycling center,” Sharon Dunnivan-Mitchell, another physical therapist who made the trip, said.

The group was able to make the annual trip this month after a year-long wait because of COVID-19.

“In May of this year, we got that phone call that said we’re taking teams, do you have people who want to come?” Aimee Kelso, a fellow physical therapist said.

Six physical therapists traveled to Guatemala City to provide therapy services for 125 people, but some continue to keep their mission trips on hold.

Those at Riverbend Church do not plan to travel this year and have not made any plans for next year. The church continues to financially support its partners through gifts to support their local efforts, and those with the church say since they cannot travel, they’ve ramped up their local efforts in Austin.

Each week, the church feeds more than 800 households through their local food pantry, Harvest Blessings Food Pantry. The church also opened Woven Blessings Clothing Boutique in east Austin to supply affordable clothing to the local community. 

Meanwhile, others like Mission to Mexico have recently started to travel again.

The physical therapists are just glad they got to go. 

“They are so appreciative, and it means a lot to the community were actually the first medical team to come back since the pandemic and work with Potter’s House,” Dunnivan-Mitchell said.

The nonprofit also works with healthcare students but because of COVID-19, they were unable to take students with them this year.

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