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Our commitment to Putting People First encourages us to not only take care of each other and our customers, but also the communities we serve. Last year, our people donated more than 10,000 hours of volunteer time off to serve the causes they are passionate about. They also donated 91 pints of blood, delivered more than 2,000 meals to seniors, and read with 120 elementary students.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve expanded our volunteer efforts to include communities around the world by offering employees the opportunity to participate in company-subsidized humanitarian trips. Through these trips, our people have built schools in Kenya and installed solar heaters on hogans in the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Arizona, and smokeless chimneys in Peru.
Most recently, we partnered with CHOICE Humanitarian — an organization that helps rural communities lift themselves out of poverty — to send nine CHG employees on an eight-day humanitarian trip to Comedero Grande, Mexico. And thanks to a grant from the Making a Difference Foundation, one of our RNnetwork nurses, Karen Lathers, joined the expedition. (Read more about her experience here.)
Making a difference
While on the trip, team members stayed two or three to a home with local host families that were selected by CHOICE Humanitarian. To give everyone a chance to connect and share experiences, the volunteers ate group meals prepared by a team cook, including a festive Thanksgiving potluck shared with local villagers. Work activities included improvements to a community center and bathroom facility, a stove, an oven, and completion of a badly needed rainwater collection cistern.
“These people who have so little — they all come together to work so hard for their village and one another,” shares RNnetwork travel nurse Karen Lathers. “We helped finish the roof on the community center and there were more than fifty villagers helping carry heavy buckets of cement back and forth. Whenever somebody is building a home, the whole village comes out to help put the roof on.”
For five days out of the eight-day trip, the team would gather for breakfast, work in rotating groups on project assignments, and then break for a shared lunch. In the afternoon, they would either return to the project rotation, or assist with afternoon classes and workshops for the villagers. Evenings included time to share their experiences as a group and bond with the host families, but most volunteers were ready for bed after a hard day’s work.
“The work was hard and intense but to see the smiles on the faces of the community residents, working side-by-side with them every day and seeing their eagerness to care for their community, was very satisfying,” says Rocio Velasco, humanitarian trip attendee and payroll coordinator with our Weatherby Healthcare division.
Creating lasting memories
All of the team members talked about memories from the trip that were especially moving. The material poverty in places like Comedero Grande makes a powerful impression on first-time visitors, but the team was equally struck by the deep personal connections the villagers share.
“It’s easy to feel disconnected from reality when you live in a first-world country that has so many luxuries,” says Katie Oakes, another humanitarian trip team member and a placing manager with our CompHealth division. “Traveling to Comedero Grande, you realize that there are some villages that are just forgotten by the government. The only way to survive is to make it happen on your own. The men spend the day working to earn money or to fix their possessions. The women spend the day harvesting, cooking, and taking care of the children. The community members depend on one another and they all help each other. It’s really remarkable to see this type of interdependence.”
Many observed that the local people aren’t distracted by technology or social media, so they’re focused on each other. During the team work projects, locals were kind and patient with the children, integrating them into all activities as a part of community life.
“I absolutely loved watching the children play outdoors with just dirt, sticks, stones, puddles, and roaming livestock,” shares Lucy Wasmund, a trip attendee and senior compliance specialist at CHG. “They don’t have fancy toys, electronics or technology, but they’re so incredibly happy.”
Several participants said they dreamed of a volunteer experience like this for years but had no idea how to make it happen. They expressed similar thoughts about how grateful they were for the groundwork done on their behalf to make the travel and logistics so safe and organized.
“Volunteering has been a part of me for many years, but this experience makes me want to do more each day, instead of just on special occasions,” Rocio shares.
Katie adds, “I didn’t think this trip would have such an effect on me, but it did. I didn’t want to leave. This is the most meaningful thing I’ve done in my life and one I’ll never forget. This trip has absolutely made me want to help underdeveloped areas more, and I’m hoping I can do this again soon.”
Check out photos from the trip below.