Giving Back

Trip to El Salvador With Operation Walk Idaho Provides Perspective for Salon Owner


Jimmy Blake, Salon Owner and Photographer, recently visited El Salvador for a “heart-changing” trip with Operation Walk Idaho, a private, non-profit, volunteer medical service located in Boise, Idaho, that provides joint replacement surgery for patients in developing countries. All volunteers donate their time, talents and money to participate. However, supplies such as joint implants, medications, wound dressings, and sterilization equipment is donated or purchased through donations.

His story is one that we knew would touch the lives of our customers. Learn more about his trip below and get involved on Operation Walk Idaho’s website.

How did you hear about Operation Walk Idaho?

My great friend Nicole Femino is the PA to Dr. Colin Poole, an Orthopaedic Surgeon. After joining the Utah chapter of Op Walk for the last several years, Nicole decided we needed an Idaho group of our own. This year was our first as the Idaho Chapter. I got involved after having dinner with Nicole and discussing her excitement about everything. We decided it would be beneficial to take me along to document everything through photographs and video.

We love supporting organizations we believe in. Explain how Salon Services was involved in your trip! 

George Learned is a very close friend of my wife Felicity and I. I knew he would be willing to help us out with some beauty products that we gifted to all the nurses and doctors at San Rafael Hospital. It is a poor country, but a happy and humble one. The nurses were amazing and extremely thankful.

Salon Services donated approximately 50 shampoos and conditioners. These were all added to gift baskets for the nurses, doctors and hospital staff. We brought several other donated gifts to El Salvador for the patients as well including: toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, tissues, stuffed animals (for the child patients). We have already begun planning and gathering donations for next year’s trip.

You mentioned that this trip was life-changing. Can you give readers a story or time when the trip changed your perspective on life, as you know it?

The trip was definitely amazing. As I told my wife, it didn’t change my life, but it changed my heart. I have never really had an experience where I (helped) change someone’s life for the better. To physically see the results and to see their happiness was wonderful. I was invited on the trip as a photographer, but on the first day in the operating room Dr. Poole says to me…”Blake put your camera down and ‘scrub in!’” in his awesome South African accent. THAT was unexpected and probably life changing! I was assisting Poole and Dr. Holley on a knee replacement. I had never even seen a surgery before; I’ve never even broken a bone or had to go to the hospital. Everyone’s question afterward was “Didn’t you get grossed out?” No, I didn’t; I loved it. I should have been a doctor...

When is your next trip?

The next trip is scheduled for April 2019. This trip changed my perspective on the differences in cultures. The people we operated on were the most grateful people: kind and generous. It is always a bit of a shock to come back to America after being in another country and realize that the “problems” we have are not really problems at all.

What’s your advice for someone contemplating a trip like this?

Well, I would have to quote one of my heroes who we just lost, the great Anthony Bourdain, and say this: “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch. Move.”

That hits the nail on the head for me. Felicity and I have always chosen to find the deepest back roads and find where the locals are wherever we go. That is where you’ll find the best food, the best people, and the best adventure. I would definitely advise anyone to do a trip like this because though it may seem like you are giving something to others, you really get back a whole lot more.

For more information about how you can help Operation Walk Idaho, visit their website.

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