Congo

Dr. Sheryl Zimmerman returned from a three-week service trip to the Congo

in June. (Photos courtesy Dr. Sheryl Zimmerman)

Dr. Sheryl Zimmerman, a pediatrician who has lived in Goodyear since December, heard a woman speak last year of the poverty and despair many Democratic Republic of the Congo residents suffer from. She knew immediately she had to travel there to attempt to make a difference.

“I had a very strong feeling come over me that I needed to go and see what I could do to help the children in this country,” she said.

Zimmerman set out for the central African country that she described “as Third World as Third World countries get,” for three weeks with a service group called Congo Rising to provide pediatric medicine and education to local children. The kids didn’t have the resources to fight and cure simple ailments.

Having never ventured to Africa, Zimmerman said she was shocked to see the squalor of hospitals and clinics. It was a quick lesson in medicine and the conditions other folks live in, just on the other side of the ocean.

“The most important thing I learned is how desperately poor most of the people are there, and what little medical care is available there,” she said. “Children don’t have their basic needs met there, and I saw malnourished, starving children everywhere I turned.”

However, the trip was an overall positive experience for Zimmerman. In three weeks, she met many incredible people, including a Catholic priest who returned to his home country after finishing two Ph. D programs to educate locals on basic health and wellness, and multiple others who are dedicating their lives to improving those of the Congolese residents.

The trip impacted her so much that she plans to return in May 2019, this time with a group of premedical students from Southern Utah University, who will work on a research project on global health care.

Until that time comes, though, Zimmerman turns to pickleball, which many refer to as a hybrid between tennis and ping-pong, primarily playing with groups in Goodyear nearly six days a week.

“I really get obsessed with it,” she said.

With the stress of service trips to the Congo and everyday troubles that arise from pediatric medicine, she said the sport allows her to relax and exercise. She is enjoying her life in Arizona.

“There are times when you can just smack the ball really hard, and it’s just such a stress reliever,” she said. “And then sometimes we get laughing so hard we can’t even play for a couple minutes. I just love it.”