Every week we like to highlight one of our outstanding volunteers! This week, meet Kelley Nguyen, a Medical Brigades volunteer from the University of Texas at Austin. Kelley was recently nominated for a Brigader Highlight story by Jeff Thompson, our Medical Brigades advisor in Panama.
Name: Kelley Nguyen
School: University of Texas at Austin
Country and Brigade program: Honduras & Panama – Medical 2011
What was it like working in rural communities and what were your first impressions?
Working in these small villages, meeting community members of a culture I didn’t even know existed, was a truly humbling experience. At first I thought of how fortunate we were to be from the United States, not having to worry about survival on a daily basis or disease being almost completely inescapable.
However by the end of trip, I remember staring out the bus windows, watching passing homes and families and being witness to true happiness. These people were the fortunate ones, untainted by insignificant ordeals. Sometimes we get caught up with trivial matters of convenience and glamour, competing to be the best, that we forget how powerful love can be. Whether it is between family members, friends, or with the local physician, I feel North Americans could learn a lot from these rural communities.
Why do you think it’s important for young people to volunteer, travel, and work with other cultures?
I feel it is important to administer help where it can be because although recording weight and temperature or assisting in doctor shadowing may seem like a small footprint, you could be changing someone’s world unknowingly. Perhaps a child sees you as a role model and wants to pursue higher education to become a doctor, or maybe fellow brigaders could be inspired to treat any and every task with their highest effort.
On the last day of my brigade in Panama, we had the opportunity to visit the community where we got to personally talk to families in their homes. One man explained to us how amazing it is to see young people reach out a helping hand to foreign lands with such enthusiasm and passion. Traveling is not only intended in helping those people in foreign countries but it can give you something in return, if you are open to it. Being exposed to other cultures has moved me greatly. I love learning about different perspectives and different ways of life. After my brigades, I have added to my bucket list to live in every continent (maybe excluding Antarctica) at least once in my life!