Merck Volunteer’s Work in Peru Clinic Proves Life Changing

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Merck Volunteer’s Work in Peru Clinic Proves Life Changing

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Merck Heroes is a new feature spotlighting @Merck employee volunteers. October highlights Luis Elizondo

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Friday, October 4, 2013 - 10:00am

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Luis Elizondo, a member of the Service Management Team in Charlotte, NC, feels that when it comes to volunteering, the personal investment is minimal compared to its rewards.

Last year, Luis Elizondo spent three weeks volunteering in Casa Hogar el Nuevo Amanecer, a clinic for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in Cuzco, Peru.

At the clinic, Luis worked with patients who were trying to conquer their addiction. Calling on his knowledge of Spanish and his degree in Psychology, he quickly became a trusted member of the clinic’s team by teaching English, playing games and, sometimes, just listening to the patients when they needed to talk.

Volunteering Through United Planet

When Luis decided to volunteer, he researched NGOs (non-governmental organizations) associated with the United Nations and discovered United Planet (UP). Based in Boston, UP is an international non-profit organization that fosters cross-cultural understanding and addresses shared challenges to unite the world in a community beyond borders. What Luis found most appealing about UP was that its program was all inclusive. For one fee, UP took care of Luis’ training, food and lodging, airport transfers in the host country, emergency medical insurance, on-sight support and cultural activities.

After giving Luis his assignment in a Spanish-speaking country–something that he had requested because of his Mexican heritage–UP arranged for him to live with a host family and prepared him for his trip with an on-boarding call that included information about local culture and traditions as well as program expectations. UP also has a community of previous volunteers who blog about their experiences and are available to answer questions.

A Humbling Experience

Volunteering with UP proved to be a life-changing experience for Luis who considers himself to be a more grateful person now. “It is so humbling to see what others have and compare it to the job, house, food, clothing and medical treatment that we sometimes take for granted,” said Luis. “The ‘average Juans’ I met in Peru are so brave to fight adversities and try to make a better life for themselves. They are real heroes!”

Spending time at the clinic also opened Luis’ eyes to new experiences such as the time he was served liver.  “Liver is an extravagant dish by local standards, and the fact that the people at the clinic took such care to cook it for me in an outside kitchen over an open flame meant a lot,” said Luis. “Being in a setting like that makes you hone in on what is truly important. As I shared this meal with these wonderful people, the fact that I don’t like liver suddenly became inconsequential.”

In addition to helping out at the clinic, he became totally immersed in the local culture. Luis ate guinea pig (a local delicacy), visited the Incan ruins in Machu Picchu and even climbed to the peak of Huayna Picchu.

“Volunteering in Peru was such a rewarding experience,” said Luis. “I hope that, in some small way, I touched the people I met in Cuzco as much as they touched me.”

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Keywords: Volunteerism & Community Engagement | Clinic | Peru | Volunteers | cuzco | merck heroes

CONTENT: Article