Dr. John Ness, Love Without Boundaries
Dr. John Ness was raised in a family that valued volunteering. Now, as a plastic surgeon with his own private practice, he dedicates a week of vacation time per year to providing pro bono surgery to impoverished children.
About Dr. John
By Gina Cargas, Communications & Social Media Intern
When most people hear the word "vacation," they picture sunny beaches and mountaintop resorts. But for Dr. John Ness, a plastic surgeon based in Minneapolis, "vacation" entails volunteer missions to China, where he repairs the cleft lips and palates of children who could not otherwise afford surgery.
Every year, Dr. Ness commits one week of vacation time per year to similar service trips. Though he now provides a highly specialized skill to underserved children, he began volunteering long before medical school.
"My parents raised us to make volunteering part of our lives," he said. "The first time I can remember volunteering was singing Christmas carols at our local nursing home when I was young. I was impressed with the idea that we all have gifts that we can use to benefit someone who has less."
This experience inspired a lifelong passion for Dr. Ness, who has now participated in around 15 surgical missions with a number of organizations. He came to our attention here at VolunteerMatch when he entered the #WhyIVolunteer Photo Contest, garnering a truly astonishing amount of feedback and support. Receiving over 600 combined likes and repins on Facebook and Pinterest, Dr. Ness' incredible story easily won the competition.
"Working 12-14 hours a day on ‘vacation' to repair the broken smiles of orphaned infants so that they can have a new chance to be joined with a forever family...is the most profoundly humbling experience I have ever known," his submission read.
Though he's been operating on children pro bono for many years, Dr. Ness now volunteers with Love Without Boundaries, a nonprofit that aims to transform the lives of orphaned and impoverished children in China by providing hope, care and healing.
While in China on a medical mission with a different group, Dr. Ness coincidentally connected with the director of Love Without Boundaries, Amy Eldridge.
"I was very impressed with her organization's laser-like focus on the plight of orphans who did not meet the criteria for adoption" he explained. "They had been born with a deformity that I ‘coincidentally' was uniquely trained to fix."
Since that first chance encounter, he has participated in five different LWB trips, working with both medical and non-medical volunteers. But no matter how many times he participates, the work never gets old.
"Each of the trips to China has been unique," he said. "We have had the privilege to partner with some wonderful people in China and provide care for some remarkably beautiful children."
His passion for service is so strong that on one trip, the hospital director asked him to give a lecture not on surgery, but on volunteerism. Surgical ability aside, Dr. Ness believes that everyone has an important thing to offer: compassion.
"I am one small part of a very coordinated effort. On this past trip, we had several volunteers who wanted to go and they each said, in their own way, ‘I don't have any special skill,'" Dr. Ness recalled. "I said, ‘If you can hold and love an orphan child for a day or two while they are recovering from surgery, then you already have a very special skill.'"
Dr. Ness says he is particularly inspired by James 1:27, a Bible verse that reads "Religion that our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress."
Looking after orphans, he believes, is something that anyone can do. He hopes that others will ask themselves what they can do to help the less fortunate around them.
"Are you able to reach out in love – unconditionally – to a stranger that may never have a way to repay your kindness?" he asks. "If you are able, then find a match and reach out. The benefit will not only be to the person you touch, but you yourself will be changed in ways that are unmeasurable."
Love Without Boundaries
Love Without Boundaries aims to transform the lives of orphaned and impoverished children in China by providing hope, care and healing. LWB believes that every child, regardless of his or her needs, deserves to experience love and be treated with dignity and care.
Love Without Boundaries
306 S Bryant Ave, Suite C
Edmond, OK 73034
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