University School - Hunting Valley
Instructor: Kevin 0'Brien
Personal Essay & Memoir
The Covid-19 pandemic affected everyone differently; the most significant impact Covid had on me was the separation it created between my family and me, my heritage, and my culture. Growing up, El Salvador was always my second home. I spent most of my time there when out of school, visiting my mother's side of the family. Spending most of my adolescence between a developing country and the United States contributed significantly to the shaping of my identity and personal values. Constantly switching between countries as a child was eye-opening. One week I was playing in my front yard with no worries at all, then a week later, I saw a stabbed man bleeding to death in the street on our way to dinner. Moments like these enabled me to understand at a young age that the world is sometimes ruthless and unfair. Seeing the disparity between how the average individuals live in El Salvador versus here in the US helped me to acknowledge the importance of giving back and assisting communities in need around me.
This summer, I finally returned to El Salvador for the first time in roughly three years. Upon my arrival, I quickly recognized how much damage the pandemic had provoked in El Salvador. Witnessing how much more El Salvador was struggling after the pandemic made me feel a need to help the El Salvadoran society in any possible way. I asked my aunt what I could do to help our community, and she informed me about Teletón. Teletón is a nonprofit institution dedicated to assisting in rehabilitating people with physical disabilities via specialized clinical services. The pandemic has created a lack of attention to all medical needs other than covid due to the small amount of medical care they already had available. Teletón has been providing thousands of people with the medical attention they haven't been able to receive and still aren't at no cost. After researching Teletón and learning more about the institution and its goals and ambitions, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to help the struggling community recover.
I instantly felt like a part of the Teletón community on my first day. I was able to connect with the Teletón community in such a meaningful way due to our aligned belief in helping the El Salvadoran community recover from the pandemic. Volunteering at Teletón consisted of making wheelchairs, taking people who weren't physically able to on their own to appointments, working in reception, and watching patients' children during their medical appointments. Working reception was one of my favorite ways to help. Being in reception tasked me with being the key communicator in the building. I was the vocal and communicative leader of our team. This position taught me how necessary teamwork and communication are to have an efficient and dedicated team. Other tasks in reception included welcoming everyone with a friendly smile, assisting people in and out of their vehicles, navigating patients to their appointments, and scheduling. However, the best part about being in reception was seeing how, through friendly greetings and encounters, I could make someone smile and make their day slightly better than it was before. Being able to positively impact people's days and provide accessible healthcare in a community that needs it the most is a magical feeling. Volunteering at Teletón allowed me to contribute to my community in a way that specifically changed people's lives.
My time at Teletón has shown me how great an impact teamwork and dedication can leave on a community. I am proud to be doing my part to help my community during such challenging times. And as a member of the Teletón community, I am so grateful to be a part of the group, and what it has taught me about personal involvement and, above all else, the importance of taking direct personal action for the greater good.