At 16, my Aha moment came while I was in a rural town in the Peruvian Andes. I was volunteering through a travel company teaching English to children and building stoves with chimneys to direct the smoke out of people’s homes, subsequently preventing respiratory illness. It sounded so romantic on paper, but when I got there, I found that I had nothing to bring to the table.
During my 2 weeks there, I taught English for only 2 days. This mainly consisted of playing soccer with the children and teaching them numbers. Nothing that would truly affect their future. I felt even more useless on the singular day that we were building stoves when the homeowner ended up teaching me how to build it. I left feeling that the trip had only served me, rather than the communities we were in. I was unequipped to do this work, and the majority of the resources spent to get me here never ended up in the hands of those we were serving, but instead fueled our egos and paid for the fun excursions that made up most of the trip. It was clear to me that this company was exploiting these vulnerable communities in order to make a profit off of the naive, but good intentioned volunteers.
Upon my arrival back home, I vowed to return to Peru well equipped to help improve the lives of the people of Peru. I was determined to make an impact.
So, I pursued a degree in Community and Nonprofit Leadership, Global Health and Nursing. I learned the hard skills of nursing along with the complexities of international nonprofit work. The two biggest pitfalls I took away from my studies of international development is that
- Power is not shifted from donors/volunteers to the members of the community being served
- Solutions are often only band aid fixes, rather than long-term sustainable interventions.
I researched for many years looking for an organization who addressed these issues head on, as well as shared that same values with me; an organization participating in thoughtful, ethical and effective engagement in vulnerable communities around the world. To my surprise, organizations effectively implementing these values were few and far between. But finally, after 5 years of searching, I finally found an organization I know I can trust.
CMMB has been in these communities for decades, and has developed a deep, strong partnership with their local staff and programming. Within this partnership, local staff are in control of decision making and always have a seat at the table. While no nonprofit is perfect, I know I’ve found the organization that will allow me to make the impact I’ve dreamed of. I am more excited than ever to work as a community health nurse in Trujillo, Peru in their First 1,000 Days program that combats malnutrition, specifically anemia, in mothers and their babies. I feel incredibly blessed to be doing this work, and ask those around me to support me in any way that they are able. Thank you so much for reading my story, and thank you to those who are able to donate. I promise your donation will be put to good use- trust me, I have a degree in nonprofit work! 😉