Name: Ketan Jain-Poster
Hometown: Clayton, Missouri
Nationality: United States
University: Stanford University
Degree: Microbes And Immunity
Languages spoken: English, Hindi, Spanish (advanced) and Mandarin (beginner)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Medical Assistance in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 3 weeks
Start month: June 2016
Claim to fame: While in high school, Ketan led a medical brigade of over 40 students and six medical professionals to a village in Nicaragua for a public-health project affecting over 500 people. Great work Ketan, UBELONG Volunteers are the best of the best!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I’ve never been happier than when I’m abroad, but found that I craved the experience of working intimately and building relationships within a community using my relevant skill set. UBELONG approaches volunteering so differently than a lot of other organizations and is especially dedicated to the communities that it serves by making sure that volunteers can establish meaningful connections. I loved that it offered me the chance to live with volunteers working on completely different projects from such different backgrounds and the fact that we lived and worked so closely with the communities which we were serving.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I found the first week to be particularly challenging. There were so many times in which I felt that I was “holding back” the clinic instead of contributing to its efficiency, and I worried that I wasn’t able to contribute to the clinic in the way that I had originally hoped. Working entirely in Spanish in a medical setting that was so different to what I was used to in the U.S. was specifically challenging, so having an open mind and cultivating a sense of cultural awareness was key to being able to interact with patients coming from different backgrounds than my own who both viewed and experienced healthcare differently than I did. I learned so much about Ecuadorian healthcare and effective modes of communication, finding myself grow more comfortable as both a Spanish speaker and a prospective healthcare provider.
Once I became more confident in my role, with the help of the nurses and the other volunteers, I found myself working almost completely independently to provide triage and manage clinic flow. It was such an amazing feeling to know that I had helped someone or at least brought a smile to someone’s face one what may have possibly been one of their worst days, and that was the impact I was hoping to make. By really getting to know each patient and providing them service that was directly relevant to them, I felt that my work became so much more meaningful. There were multiple times in which a patient approached me outside of the clinic to tell me how thankful they were for the clinic and the care they had received. Although I am not a doctor or a nurse, I quickly learned that it doesn’t necessarily take a medical degree to make a positive impact on another human being.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
Luis, the father of the family that owned and ran the volunteer house, never ceased to impress me. He was one of the most warm, loving, and charismatic individuals that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I have so many fond memories of him, including the time in which he taught me how to make scrambled eggs Ecuadorian style and then woke up early for a countless number of mornings thereafter without me asking just to make scrambled eggs for me in a specific way because he knew that I liked it! But more importantly, he always put our needs above all during desperate times. In an emergency situation that we encountered one weekend, he, without hesitation, offered himself to drive several hours to a distant town to come help us even though I’m sure he was busy that day. There wasn’t a moment that passed us by in which he wasn’t exuding positive energy and love for all of us.
In reality, I was touched by everyone I encountered in my time with UBELONG. I remember the incredible staff I worked with at the clinic and how patient and welcoming the nurses were; I remember all the volunteers, with whom I shared countless adventures, memories, and “times-of-my-life”; I remember Geovanna and her sisters (our host family), and our late night dinners and soccer matches. But most of all, the patients I had the pleasure of working with impressed me endlessly with their positivity and openness, admirably so, as I interacted with so many warm and happy people that continued to spread joy despite the pain that they may have been experiencing.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your experience?
I saw happiness in conditions in which one would least expect it, liveliness in the simplest forms of living, and adventure in every opportunity.