The purpose of the LAUGHH Foundation is to serve those who are underserved through medical missions, support of educational ministries, and community service. A major component of these is to go beyond traditional medical treatment to include a major effort on education on how to improve health. Our mission includes providing tools that enable and empower people to change their lives. We not only treat conditions, but educate on how to control and prevent chronic conditions. This includes exercise and nutrition education through workshops that help people understand how they can improve their lives, so that the quality of their life continues to improve after we leave.
In 2007, thinking there was a need for helping people get education that can help them with life skills, Francie Stoner began the process of setting up a foundation to do that. She incorporated The LAUGHH Foundation – with LAUGHH as an acronym for Live Abundantly Using Guided Helping Hands, as when you Laugh, it causes the release of endorphins in the body to boost immune system. And in his book The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer points out that when we see good, do good or receive good, these same endorphins are released and our immune systems are bolstered. So LAUGHH was created to help people LAUGHH and get healthy – psychologically, medically and physically!
Francie received training clinically as a medical technologist, rad tech and EMT, and spent 29 years as an executive at Cerner Corporation, a leading health care informatics and health care change agent. In 2004, Francie went on her first mission trip – a surgical mission to Chulucanas, Peru, with the team that has become the founding members of LAUGHH. The deep friendships that developed meant that this group would gather at least once a year to participate in a community activity. Ten years after that first mission trip, the group decided to take another mission trip together. We needed a charitable organization to help drive this. It was just perfect for LAUGHH to be the organization to carry these missions forward. And the partnership was formed!
“We really wanted to be different from standard mission organizations. One of the biggest problems with medical missions was that they would go into a town and apply lots of ‘bandaids’ to medical problems but don’t have time to treat the causes, so patients may have had a temporary fix, but rarely know how to cure, control or prevent disease, especially chronic conditions,” says Ms. Stoner.
“So we set about designing a program that would not only diagnose and treat patients in a clinic situation, but also develop an educational process that would help the patients understand what the condition was, what caused it, how to treat it and what would happen if they didn’t take care of themselves. It would include diet and nutrition, exercise and ideas for creating healthier communities, even in the poorest of conditions! What better way to help people realize better health than with a LAUGHH! We can hardly wait to see what our Guided Helping Hands do as we join together in this great mission!”
Our first Health and Wellness mission was July 18-25, 2014. The LAUGHH Foundation team flew to Bucaramanga, Colombia to offer medical assistance in the towns of Berlin, Piedecuesta, Lebrija and Giron. Led by Gisella Alvarez and Dr. Bruce Sands, the 30-member team offered primary medical care including internal medicine, pediatrics, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing to over 1,200 patients. We were also lucky to be joined by 30 high school and college students from Bucaramanga. The Colombian Army even joined us for 3 of our clinic days bringing dentists and great entertainment to those waiting for care!
Through our partnering with the Santander state, as well as city governments and hospitals, we sought to improve health outcomes through education. Nutrition consults were provided to every patient and exercise was encouraged by conducting exercise classes at the clinic sites. In addition, each patient received vitamins, a toothbrush, fluoride painting (for the kids) and those in need were given eye exams and glasses.
This year’s Health and Wellness Mission was back in Colombia. The LAUGHH Foundation team flew to Bucaramanga, Colombia in July of this year to offer health and wellness care and education in the towns of La Fortuna, Girón, Berlín and Piedecuesta. Led by Gisella Alvarez and Dr. Bruce Sands, the 40-member team offered primary medical care including general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, wound care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing and an incredibly successful education process to over 1,400 patients. We gave 10 wheelchairs, 15 walkers and 30 canes. We continued our distribution of vitamins, tooth brushes and fluoride (for kids) in the clinic sites.
In Berlin, we saw the beginning of a new project that includes a school vegetable and fruit garden that the students plant and care for. We are planning to add an exercise and nutrition education program for the children so they know the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables. This is designed as a pilot that will be expanded not only in Colombia, but ideally brought back to the US! That way we have impact in both countries and will have local projects as well as international. This is a very exciting part of our expanding programs!
Our first partnership with a Colombian medical school brought six 3rd year medical students onto the team and they acted as translators for the physicians and part of the education team. We hope to have a Skype session with them during the program so everyone can hear their amazing message about the mission. The entire mission team saw lives changed and miracles every day! You will experience more of those during the program! It will be great!
Our 2016 mission will be a return to Bucaramanga, Colombia July 15-22. Maybe you will be joining us!