“Go into the experience willing to help in any way that you are needed.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Joseph Ciano
Age: 27
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Nationality: United States
University: New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
Degree: Medicine
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Medical Assistance in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: August 2017
Claim to fame: Joseph has been working in a busy, inner-city Emergency Department for about the last year as part of his medical training as a new physician. Very impressive, Joseph! Welcome to the UBELONG Family!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I have always enjoyed travelling in countries different than my own and experiencing different cultures, ways of thinking, ways of living, and overall perspective. I work in the medical field as an Emergency Medicine Resident Physician in Brooklyn, New York. I am interested in possibly completing an International Emergency Medicine Fellowship after my residency training so that I can be more equipped in providing medical care to different areas in the world. I had never done medical work outside of my country, and I was interested in an experience that would introduce me to what it would be like to provide medical assistance in a foreign country. UBELONG seemed like a well-organized, relatively affordable, and fun way to accomplish this goal.

What did you find most rewarding from you volunteer experience?
I found it most rewarding to go into the community where my clinic was located, so that I could be with the local people and understand how they lived, obtained food, shared company with each other, interacted, and worked. This gave me a taste of the struggles that the local people went through to survive and some of their barriers to living healthy lives and problems with sanitation. Working in the local clinic, which was my “regular” Monday-Friday job also was very rewarding.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG Volunteer?

  • Go into the experience willing to help in any way that you are needed, even if it is in ways that you didn’t necessarily sign up for.
  • Maintain a very open-minded viewpoint on the local culture and belief system, as they can sometimes be very different from where you come from and feel “wrong”. In reality, they aren’t “wrong” for the people who live there, they are what is normal and accepted there. Accept that people may not see or say things in the most politically correct way. Take it in stride.
  • Don’t make assumptions about anything. It is better to ask questions, even if it makes you look silly.

In a sentence or less, what is your best packing advice.
Do not check any luggage. Bring as little luggage as possible and leave clothes, bed sheets, or other materials behind that you do not need. Your host family or volunteer house can use these items for future volunteers, or can donate them to the community that probably needs it more than you do.

Your turn to join the best: apply now

Related post:
Meet Laura Little, a San Francisco State University student, who volunteered with UBELONG in the Law and Human Rights project in Accra, Ghana.