The amount of suffering that exists in this world is immense and seemingly insurmountable. Living in the U.S., we are often sheltered from the vast inequities that exist globally, and much of this suffering remains unnoticed—for many people, the saying “out of sight, out of mind” holds true. Personally, I have always been passionate about helping those in need, leading me down the path towards medicine. However, as a pre-med student, I quickly became caught up in the pre-med life: constantly stressing about GPA, research, the MCAT, accumulating clinical hours, and still trying to get enough sleep to function. In the midst of it all, I became so focused on my end goal of helping people as a physician, that I forgot that there were still so many things that I could do now in service of those in need.
As a result, I found Alternative Breaks, and this past spring break, I traveled to a rural community, Los Fierros, Nicaragua. Los Fierros was about a 20 minute drive from the main city of Managua, and then an additional 20 minutes on a bumpy dirt road, going down a dangerous mountain side. It was here that I met Elia, a sweet lady who had gotten into an accident and had her leg amputated. She lived in a makeshift house, consisting of metal sheets propped up and held down by rocks. For an entire week, my Alternative Breaks group and I worked hard to build her a small house. By the end of it all, I had learned to mix cement with a shovel, lay bricks, construct metal rebars by hand, and combining it all to construct a house. The most touching moment was when we were able to present the house to Elia, knowing that we had changed her life forever. In the end, tackling big issues like poverty, or world hunger, might seem insurmountable. However, the biggest lesson I learned from my experience in Nicaragua was that you can make a small difference, which may mean the world for someone else. For Elia, it was constructing a house for her—a new place she can now call home. Because in the end, if you have touched even one life, you have made a difference. You mattered.