Stephanie Summa is a physician assistant from Rochester, NY who is currently serving at Mwandi Mission Hospital in Zambia. Here she shares a reflection about spending Thanksgiving far from home and family. 

I am not going to lie, as I walked home from the hospital Thanksgiving Day, I was a little depressed.

Here I was, walking back to an empty house with no turkey and no family to celebrate with. I thought to myself,

“In a couple of hours my entire family would be at my mom and dad’s home eating turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and the excessive amount of delicious pies made by my Aunt Karen and Aunt Sis.”

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

As I headed out into the yard to take down my laundry, my attention was immediately grabbed by the bright sun bouncing off of the waters of the Zambezi. And it was beautiful. And all of a sudden I was filled with so much gratitude.

Who cares about turkey and mashed potatoes!


That day, I had gotten to tickle the belly of Calvin, a 4-year-old boy hospitalized after falling off an ox-cart. With his leg in traction to help his femur bone heal, I got to watch him smile and giggle!

I also got to clean and re-pack the wound of Gertrude, a diabetic patient with a hip infection.

I got to do a physical exam on an 18-year-old girl who I learned is in the midst of completing her forms required to go to school to become a secondary teacher! To got to see the joy and excitement on her face.

I got so much from giving on Thanksgiving Day, and I wouldn’t trade any of these things for any amount of turkey (or stuffing!)

What is it all about?

Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey, the football games, or searching through the Black Friday ads (although I hope you got some good deals!).

Thanksgiving is about gratitude for the blessings one has received.

I am so blessed!

Here I am, on another continent, able to care for patients who otherwise may have had to wait another day (or three) or who would have been rushed through to make room for all the other patients waiting (with too few healthcare providers).

And, let’s face it, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that if it weren’t for you!

So thank you.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for so many things.

First off, I am happy someone actually reads these blog posts. But I am especially thankful for each every person who has given their time, prayers, or donations in support of volunteers such as myself or for any of CMMB’s programs.

I am so appreciative to be here on the front lines of CMMB’s work to improve the health and dignity of every human being and to be able to see the positive changes happening.

So I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving filled with true gratitude and feel free to eat that leftover piece of pie for me!

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