3 Life Lessons I Learned while Volunteering in Mexico

Qianwen Tiffany Lu
Qianwen Tiffany Lu

Qianwen (Tiffany) Lu is in the Business Analytics and Risk Management graduate program at the John Hopkins Carey Business School. Her undergraduate major is Certified General Accounting. In her sophomore year, she flew to New York to take part in a program which included training in Morgan Stanley and the Entrepreneurship Competition at Harvard University. After one year, she flew back to New York for summer school in Columbia University. Before graduating, she worked for KPMG as a consultant intern to improve its management accounting system. She enjoys traditional Chinese painting and is a fan of tennis.

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In about two months, I will graduate from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and as graduation approaches, I remember the reasons I chose Carey. A big one is the “business with humanity in mind” concept.

To further explore that concept, I spent the break between spring and summer terms in Mexico for a one-week volunteer experience in a hospital in Merida. My primary focus was education for exceptional children. My daily responsibilities included caring and playing with the children with intellectual disabilities. Before joining the program, I felt worried because my prior volunteer experience had no relationship to taking care of children with disabilities. I had only taught basic English in Indonesia.

When I first entered the hospital, a lot of children and doctors stared at me because Chinese are not common in Merida, especially in that hospital. I felt nervous, I have to admit. But that feeling lasted only a second, because soon, some of the children came to stand by me, wishing to play with me. I felt so happy that they could get close to me in a short time. During the volunteer work, I made a lot of new friends and learned a lot from them. Specifically, below are three of the most important lessons I learned in Merida:

Smile at your life. At first, I could not help expressing my sympathy because a lot of young babies suffer different kinds of disabilities. Most of them could not run or see. But they were all laughing and appeared to have no complaints in life. That was so surprising to me. Walking, running or seeing: these basic skills, I thought, are what the children and their families pursue and hope for. But despite the difficulties, they were smiling at their life. They were looking for the rose in the dust. I feel encouraged having worked with these children. I am lucky to have a strong and healthy body to pursue my dreams, and when I face challenges, I will face them with a smile on my face.

Keep humanity in mind. As I mentioned, the “business with humanity in mind” tagline is one of the reasons I chose the Carey Business School to further my education and I really appreciate the spirit behind the concept. However, I don’t think most of my classmates keep it in their minds or follow it on a daily basis. In most situations, our investments are still based more on financial indicators, and we may ignore the humanity behind the investment. My experience in Mexico, however, combined with coursework completed at Carey helped me gain a deeper understanding of the connection between human rights, sustainability and business.

Contribute to your community, hometown and your country. In this special volunteer experience, I met a young boy from Africa who is preparing for his own healthcare business in Africa. Every day, he consulted the doctors and natives in Merida to know about their healthcare system. He wishes to bring a revolution in the African healthcare system and more benefits to his hometown. I felt so proud of him when he was describing his dream. His commitment is so touching. Inspired by him, I will continue to contribute more to my surroundings, hoping to bring more positive energy to the community.

I had no idea that my volunteer work could bring a big change to others’ lives or to my life. What I really wanted to do was get close to the disabled children, share interesting ideas with them, and communicate with them. What I found is a community of strong children and inspirational volunteers. The children I met taught me how to bear the difficulties and smile at the challenges; the new volunteer friends let me know how to see my life from different perspectives and bring positive energy to the world. My hope is that all my classmates keep the concept of humanity in mind and bring it both to their personal and professional experiences.

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