Spending time away from your desk can teach you a lot about yourself. Having just returned from a month-long pro bono rotation in Latin America, volunteering with an NGO, I learned how exhausting it can be to work all day at deciphering a language that isn’t your own, how to prioritize to get the most out of super slow wifi, and what chapulines, or crickets, taste like. But more importantly, I saw first-hand the difficulty of providing healthcare services to underserved and rural parts of the world, and the dedication it requires.
I had the opportunity to embark on the Johnson & Johnson “Talent for Good” Global Pro Bono pilot program in Latin America, volunteering with a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Compañeros En Salud (CES) in Chiapas, México. CES is a sister organization of Boston-based Partners In Health, working to strengthen the healthcare system in México. I was based in Jaltenango de la Paz, a small city in the state of Chiapas, working with the CES team on a strategic marketing and communications plan. Our goal was helping CES to attract more Mexican donors to sustain the organization’s programming and growth.
CES operates ten rural clinics in small communities in the Sierra Madre, and runs a robust training program for physicians serving in those communities. In México, physicians complete an obligatory “social service year” after graduating from medical school, and one of the options is to work in a rural community. In many of these areas, there’s little access to healthy food options, hospitals, or even electricity. The doctors with whom CES works (called pasantes) made the difficult choice of relocating to these areas, giving up the comforts of home for a year. They work under these challenging circumstances to provide services to people who might otherwise not receive them. Because these pasantes are outside of their own comfort zones, they’re having an even bigger impact.
At Johnson & Johnson Innovation, one phrase continues to ring out among the office, in our communications, and in our daily work: A great idea can come from anywhere. The next “big thing” be it a drug, a medical device or a consumer solution, could be developed outside of the four walls of Johnson & Johnson. Stepping outside of those four walls myself brought me a richer understanding of the healthcare landscape, and a deeper appreciation for healthcare providers on the front lines of care.
I wouldn’t have had the chance to take part in this inspiring program if I hadn’t jumped when the opportunity presented itself. I’m proud to work for a company that places such value on programs like this one, that serve so many purposes -- aside from the obvious purpose of supporting an organization like CES and helping them to deliver more care to the communities they serve. I definitely gained new skills through this rotation that will help me to move forward in my job, but I’m also walking away a better person, with more patience, compassion, and drive.
The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that it’s important to take a leap of faith. Walk through the doors that open for you, or wrench them open yourself. Try new things even if you aren’t sure what they mean or where they will take you. Get out of the four walls of your office, if you can, and change your perspective. Change your language and your landscape. Change your mind.
For more information about the incredible work that Compañeros En Salud does, visit their website here: www.companerosensalud.mx.
If you would like to know more how Johnson & Johnson is impacting communities, go to https://www.jnj.com/our-giving