Emily Jones, ISL’s Essay Contest Winner, shares how her experience in Costa Rica affected her patient approach at home in Alabama:
My ISL Experience
In my ambition to become a physical therapist, I chose to volunteer with ISL because I felt the unique experience would help me become a stronger candidate for physical therapy school. Although there is no doubt that my trip to Costa Rica has done that, it has also rekindled my passion for helping people in need, both globally and locally. I have always been committed to helping people, but after this trip I have become more motivated and altered my approach in helping my local community.
I have learned that to really help others, taking time with each person makes the biggest difference. Prior to volunteering, I thought I needed to perform as many big tasks as I could in order to change the world – like consult as many clients as possible, as fast as possible. However, I have learned through ISL that taking the time to help one person means a whole lot more. Taking extra time to teach clients their exercises, listen to their story, and have a meaningful conversation leads to a better experience and better learning. While I was in Costa Rica, I helped diagnose a woman with a meniscus problem – although I was there primarily to heal this problem, I made sure to smile, really listen to her concerns, entertain her young daughter with a stethoscope and theraband, and have fun with the exercises. In the end we were all laughing and the woman looked and felt better after her appointment.
After seeing many other clients in the same situation as that woman, my motivation to help others has been revamped. The low-income communities I visited with ISL opened my eyes to the stress these people endure, whether it is from money problems, health problems, or job problems, and how they have to cope. These are the same problems that affect local communities in America and are the same problems that I can help alleviate. Through ISL I was able to offer people a chance to relax, time to work on their own problems without need for money, and education to help prevent further problems. Now that I am back home in Alabama, I have already begun to help others in the way I did with ISL. Through the Committee of 19, a hunger awareness association, I have volunteered at local food pantries in the area – I have contributed not only manual labor, but friendly help and conversation to the customers that come in. While volunteering at local physical therapy clinics, I help patients with their exercises, I listen and learn about their lives, and I take the time to help and have fun.
Before ISL, I thought I needed to contribute in big ways to really change the world. From my experience I have learned, however, that I can make a huge difference in my own community with one person at a time. Taking time with people and giving them laughter, conversation, or education is the best way to alleviate problems in local communities. This, in combination with my renewed motivation, is how I plan to change my community for the better.