Teaching Traveling: Are you a teacher seeking a great volunteer project for the summer?
Are you a traveler wanting to give back by teaching your skills to those in need?
Listen now as Benedict (Ben) Del Buono tells us about the volunteer program at the Roberto Clemente Health Clinic in Nicaragua!
Ben, tell us about your background.
Ben: I’m 25, from San Jose, CA, and currently work as an Aide in the radiology department of Good Samaritan Hospital. In the past I have had many volunteer experiences, including assisting teachers at the Urban Corps in San Diego, CA. I have traveled to 4 different Spanish speaking countries, including two separate trips each to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
TT: Tell us about volunteering in Nicaragua.
B: My trips to Nicaragua while volunteering with the Roberto Clemente Health Clinic have been amazing. In total, I have visited Nicaragua and volunteered with the clinic for 6 weeks. While there, I have done diabetes outreach in local communities, visited elementary schools, assisted with a Tom’s Shoes giveaway to local kids, and shadowed the clinic staff. I’ve also enjoyed surfing and spending time at the beaches.
TT: How did you find the Roberto Clemente Health Clinic?
B: I found the clinic through a web search engine. Friends of mine have also been to this area of Nicaragua in the past, so I had some background information to start with.
TT: How did you find the money to fund your volunteer travels in Nicaragua?
B: Money required for traveling was funded completely by my savings. Each visit, however, I received a donation of $1,000 to contribute to diabetes outreach with the clinic. In 2011, Medtronic contributed, while in 2012 it was John Michael Sobrato of San Jose, CA. Much of the outreach would have been impossible without them.
TT: Tell us a particularly powerful moment from your volunteer travels.
B: A powerful moment in my travels happened during this past trip at an educational meeting with local diabetics. Another volunteer and I met with around 30 diabetics in Virgen Morena, a local community near the Roberto Clemente Health Clinic. Here we gave an informational talk about diabetes and provided glucometers and test strips to 6 different communities. This will enable them to test their blood sugar levels if symptoms arise. We also provided different educational materials for them to share with others in their communities. The powerful moment came at the end of the meeting when one of the community members explained how she kept asking the clinic when these supplies were coming. The nurse at the clinic had to keep telling her to wait because we were coming in April. This made me feel like we really made a difference there. It was also a quick reminder that there is a significant need for health care outreach in rural Nicaragua. Given a bit of help, I made a small difference this time… So can anyone else.
TT: How have your travels affected your career?
B: My travels have contributed to my hospital position in a couple ways. First, I feel like a different perspective on health care outside of our hospital reminds me why we all work in that profession to begin with. No matter where you are providing care, near or far, rich or poor, it’s always about the patient. Next, by traveling to Spanish-speaking countries, especially volunteering in Nicaragua, my language skills have gotten much better. Working in a California hospital, this has become a valuable tool to have.
TT: How have your travels shaped you as a person?
B: As a person I definitely feel like each travel experience makes me somewhat smarter. That goes for most any trip. These trips to Nicaragua have absolutely been a learning experience for the better. It’s one thing to go and see another culture and enjoy what the land has to offer, but to meet the people and contribute to their communities makes for a complete trip. These are things you can read about, but actually being a part of them are truly beneficial. I often ask myself while traveling: what am I doing here? We are what we do, and through simple contributions on trips like these I feel like my time has been well spent.
TT: What advice do you have for others with skills they wish to teach abroad?
B: My advice is to just go. Treat each trip like a project. Where do you want to visit and where are you needed? What can you provide to another area of the world? What do you want to learn? Prepare yourself as best as possible by knowing some of the language and bringing your skills (donations and supplies always help too). Connect with others involved and the rest will take care of itself.
TT: Thanks so much for your wise words, Ben! Readers, if you’re interested in this volunteer opportunity at the Roberto Clemente Health Clinic in Nicaragua, check out their website, here.
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