Jean Junior is the 2008 Harvard College Recipient. After Harvard, Jean was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Upon completion of her M. Phil at Oxford, she returned to the United States and Harvard Medical School. Jean found time during her studies to use her grant from the Fitzie Foundation to volunteer with One Heart-Worldwide in Urique, Mexico. More recently, Jean used additional funds from her grant for a homestay and French language program in Paris. She graduated from medical school in 2016, and is in the first year of her pediatric residency.
Jean shared a few highlights from her time volunteering with the One Heart World-Wide non-profit in Mexico. She described her experience as “definitely one of the best I’ve had during the past few years, and I truly appreciate the Fitzie Foundation making it possible to have it!”
August 5, 2012
Wow! It’s been about three months since I finished a 6-week volunteer experience at One Heart World-Wide’s site in Urique, Mexico. And I must say, I truly miss my time in Urique. It’s so hard to write a blog summarizing such a rich volunteer experience. In some ways, I don’t even know where to start to capture my time there. For me, it’s often easiest to organize my thoughts in terms of lists. So, here’s a list of some of the things I miss most about volunteering with One Heart in Mexico:
(1) The Work
I once made a list of activities that I am most passionate about, things that I love doing the most. I realize now that One Heart Mexico combined almost all of these passions. For instance, I love working in life-or-death situations, situations where the stakes are high. And I got to do just that in Mexico, given that One Heart works to reduce preventable deaths related to pregnancy and delivery among vulnerable rural populations.
A typical work day at the One Heart office would usually involve various “data cleaning” tasks. By “data cleaning,” I mean tasks such as making sure that information in One Heart Mexico’s Excel spreadsheet database of programmatic inputs and outputs was accurate, useful, and used to help make decisions. On the surface, this might sound boring, but this kind of work is totally engaging and thrilling when the data you’re checking concerns whether or not a woman has a safe birthing kit and birth attendance to prevent the death of her or her child. I can only imagine how gut-wrenching a death during childbirth must be. It felt so amazing to play even a small part in helping prevent this from happening – seriously, I know of no better feeling.
(2) The Close Staff Interaction
When it comes to doing global health volunteer experiences, I often prefer working with smaller organizations. Why? Because I feel like I often have more staff interaction in such organizations, and can make a bigger impact since the human resource needs are higher. One Heart gave me the opportunity to do just that. One Heart’s Mexico site only recently started, and has made tremendous progress in a very short time. This is especially true given that, as of spring 2012, there was only one full-time and one part-time staff member on-the-ground in Urique. This meant that I got to work very closely with the one full-time staff member, whose name is Leonel.
This was one of the most concentrated interactions I have had with a staff member in a non-profit organization, in terms of number of hours worked together. It also turned out to be one of the most rewarding. Leonel and I were very much on the same page in terms of commitment to One Heart’s work, and to taking fullest advantage of my time in Urique to make as much progress as possible with projects such as the aforementioned Excel database, an inventory, and creating some new forms to capture key programmatic data. Leonel was also very patient with my Spanish language skills, which though sufficient, were not perfect. I remember one day, I was trying to understand a situation with an elderly One Heart community health volunteer, and I accidentally used the term “vieja” (which means, “old” in Spanish), rather than “de mayor edad” (which is the culturally appropriate way to say “elderly” in Spanish). Leonel got this shocked look on his face, and then just fell out laughing. Needless to say, though I was helping to teach Leonel new computer and monitoring and evaluation skills, I also learned a lot from him as well!
(3) The Tortillería
Somehow, it seems a bit silly to end on this topic after the first two serious work items on this list. But, I just have to say that the tortillería in Urique, just about two blocks from the One Heart office was awesome. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Seriously, one of my favorite parts of living in Urique was walking over to the tortillería every few days, chatting with the family who ran it, and getting the freshest, softest, most savory, and warm tortillas I have ever eaten.
Anyways, so much left unsaid, so much left uncaptured. But I hope this blog gives a snapshot of why my experience with One Heart was so amazing!