“I lived simply, did humble work, and experienced so much happiness, saw so much joy, and felt so alive.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Jessica Swanson
Age: 30
Hometown: Titusville, Florida
Nationality: United States
University: University Central Florida
Degree: Doctor Of Nursing Practice, Family Medicine
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (advanced) and German (advanced)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Medical Assistance in Merida, Mexico
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: May 2016
Claim to fame: For four years while Jessica was obtaining her doctorate, she worked full time as a nurse. She would work 12 hour shifts three nights a week and attend school and clinicals during the day. We’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Family, thank you for your service, Jessica!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
In December of 2015, my life changed forever when my husband passed away from leukemia. In the months that followed, I decided that I did not want to sit and suffer in my own grief, but use this painful time as an opportunity to give back. I hoped that my skills and knowledge as a Doctor of Nursing Practice could be useful to people in developing countries. UBELONG provided me with the opportunity to partner with local healthcare providers in a safe and welcoming environment. They allowed me to channel my grief into an experience that was incredibly humbling, centering, and rewarding.

What is your favorite memory?
In Merida, I worked with the surgical team at a children’s hospital. On my first day in the OR, we cared for a 2 year old girl with severe burns on her face and back. She had pulled a pot of hot water from the stove. I remember the terror and guilt on her mother’s face: she, like me, worried that her daughter would have permanent scars. For the next two weeks, we had to take the little girl into the operating room every two days to clean and bandage the wounds. During my final week, the girl and her mother returned to the hospital for a check up. Her wounds had nearly healed, and both mother and daughter wore bright smiles across their faces. It was a great feeling to be part of the team that cared for her and to know that the little girl could look forward to a normal life.

In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your experience?
I lived simply, did humble work, and met people who live in conditions I never could imagine, and yet, I experienced so much happiness, saw so much joy, and felt so alive.

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Related post:
Meet Suzette Wafford-Turner, a University of Southern Mississippi pre-Med, who volunteered with UBELONG in Quito, Ecuador on the Medical Assistance project.