When the volunteers of Operation Walk Pittsburgh are on the move, they don’t travel light. For each mission, the non profit organization takes around 70 staff members and enough medical materials for four operating rooms. While the group may travel heavily, their goal is to help others walk and move more freely. “Operation Walk Pittsburgh exists to help people in need, specifically those with bone and joint pain,” says Nick Langston, program director at the AMD3 Foundation, OWP’s parent organization.
Operation Walk Pittsburgh is one of the 20 chapters of the Operation Walk national organization. Other chapters are across the United States and Canada, as well as one in Ireland. Operation Walk was first founded by Dr. Larry Dorr in Los Angeles and has grown through his contacts in the medical field. Dr. Anthony M. DiGioia III founded the Pittsburgh chapter in 2008 after accompanying Dr. Dorr on a mission trip to Antigua, Guatemala. In 2009, OWP went on its first solo mission to Antigua and has since been on ten missions to Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and Cuba. “We’ve become so close with our contacts in Latin America, and try to make a yearly mission,” says Nick.
Each mission to Latin America requires a large and skillful team of medical professionals and volunteers, both from OWP and from their in-country partner hospital. OWP works within the country’s existing hospitals and personnel to build partnerships within the community, lead continuing education sessions and provide treatment for patients. OWP provides the same evaluations and surgeries that would be provided in the U.S. through these partnerships. OWP also helps to establish plans of care for pain management, physical therapy and resources for ongoing evaluations of patients.
“In many developing countries, there are structural and medical problems, as well as poverty. Procedures that greatly improve quality of life, like knee and hip replacements, are expensive and some countries may not provide those surgeries other than to the extremely privileged,” says Nick.
OWP works to give its hospital partners the tools and training to continue to work with patients once the mission has ended.
“We hold classes on the latest techniques and research findings. We don’t go in and take over. We partner with local physicians to do the work,” says Nick.
At Adda Coffee and Tea House, we spotlighted the work of Operation Walk Pittsburgh and donated a percentage of our sales. Individual donations are also accepted and a hundred percent of those donations cover the direct costs of patient care, such as bandages, sutures, canes and walkers. If you’d prefer to donate your time, OWP is always looking for humanitarian volunteers to assist with help around the hospitals and with community projects. There are also sign-ups for packing days before missions. To learn more about how you can help, join the mailing list or visit the website.