“Traveling makes me a better person and a better professional. I can apply what I learn abroad here in the US.”


Nolene Ferguson is an extraordinary woman with an extraordinary story of international service. She is the Clinical Director of the Global Nurse Initiative, an organization in Providence, Rhode Island, that mobilizes nurses in the US to volunteer in hospitals across the developing world. Nolene has volunteered in Guatemala, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, India and Nepal. She is an experienced nurse at the UMass Memorial Hospital and a second-year doctorate nurse practitioner at the UMass Medical School. This summer she served in the “medical assistance” Volunteer Abroad in Cusco. In Cusco she volunteered at a health center, mostly in maternal health practice. “It was an excellent opportunity and I am so glad I went. Besides my volunteer work, I had lots of opportunity to meet incredible people”

What motivated you to seek a volunteer opportunity in Cusco?
I love to travel and volunteering abroad is an important part of my life. I wanted to experience volunteering in South America, immerse myself in the culture and practice my Spanish. I had been following UBELONG for a while and I wanted to experience what it was like to be a UBELONG volunteer. I also really wanted to visit Machu Picchu!

What was most difficult or challenging to you during your stay?
I was not expecting the weather to be that cold! Also, in Cusco most people don’t speak English and it was important for me to work on my Spanish to do my job. It was a challenge, particularly in a hospital setting. I did not always know what they wanted of me. At the end of my trip I had improved a lot, though.

Other challenges in Cusco are the ones I usually seek when I travel abroad. Assimilating to a totally new environment and trying new foods is something I really enjoy.

What did you learn about yourself in Cusco?
I am 43 and I have volunteered abroad many times but I never stop learning. My experience in Cusco reinforced my feeling that you can learn from anybody and everyone has something to offer. I never stop learning about myself. Traveling is like an outdoor classroom. I think it makes me a better person and also a better professional as I can apply what I learn abroad with my patients here in the US.

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Related post:
Meet Hannah Oh, an undergraduate student at the University of Washington who volunteered with UBELONG in Cusco, Peru on the Caring for Malnourished Children project.