— Meet WOGO Team Member Alia Gupta. Alia joined the team in 2011 for our first Guatemala medical mission in that country, and she’s been with us since. Alia is an RN in Maryland. She is the Silent Auction lead for the annual Pinehurst Golf event. She has a daughter and together they are avid travelers and volunteers. —
I identify as a Guyanese-American woman and though it is a label, I claim it proudly. But being born in America to two Guyanese immigrants, the country I took on as my own was far out of my reach. It was a divide that distinguished me from being Guyanese to being a Guyanese-American. When I was 16 years old, the opportunity arose to visit the place my parents’ called home, I was more than willing to go.
It was a surreal experience from the time my mom and I landed in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, to the ferry ride on the Demerara River over to the countryside where bustling marketplace vendors where selling fresh-caught fish, homegrown tropical fruits and vegetables, and fresh cut sugarcane along the side of the road. What I remember most were the congregations of locals on their daily commute to work either by foot or bike. What caught my attention were the older adults walking along the side of the road with makeshift canes or crutches. It was quite a harrowing sight juxtaposed to the splendor of the marketplace. As a teenage girl, without any medical training, I truly felt helpless in the moment.
As we gradually made our way in the village estate of Port Mourant, we continued to pass by similarly physically disabled men, women, and children, the feeling of futility stuck with me for the remainder of the trip, and for some time after we came back to the U.S.
After that trip, I made a promise to myself, the next time I went back to Guyana, I would at least be in a position to help thepeople there in any way I could. The experience propelled me to apply to nursing school, and eventually become a Registered Nurse (RN) and ultimately join the Women’s Orthopaedic Global Outreach (WOGO) medical mission group. Through our ongoing travels around the globe providing underserved communities with the gift of mobility, it has been an impactful experience shaping my personal and professional life.
When it was initially announced that the next country, we would visit in 2020 was Guyana, the powerless young girl I had once been during my childhood visit finally felt the empowerment to help the Guyanese people. When the COVID pandemic hit, postponing the mission trip, part of the euphoria became dormant. But it was my immediate community that needed me the most and I was more than willing to help. I came to terms with knowing the opportunity would eventually come in time. Now, three years later, the medical mission trip to Guyana is back on schedule, and I couldn’t be more elated.
With the help of the talented medical professionals of WOGO, I now can make good on my promise to myself 26 years in the making — I couldn’t be more overjoyed, grateful, and humbled.