We use cookies to improve user experience. Choose what cookies you allow us to use. You can read more about our Cookie Policy in our Privacy policy.

Volunteering with FIMRC Gave Me the Confidence to Pursue My Dreams

global health peru project huancayo undergraduate student volunteer experience Mar 04, 2020

Winter break scholarship recipient Sarah Mullen was at a crossroads, then she decided to volunteer abroad with FIMRC and her path became clear. Find out how Sarah’s volunteer experience at Project Huancayo, Peru changed and inspired her as she prepares for medical school. 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.” –Mark Twain

On January 23, 2019, my life met a crossroads, and each path would take me into two distinctly different directions. I was accepted to the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, my hometown. In everyone else’s minds, my future was now set. I would return to the city where I had lived for the first 18 years of my life to begin an almost decade-long journey to becoming a doctor. But my heart longed for a different option. That same day, I decided to take a gap year to pursue broader experiences and a deeper understanding of healthcare.  In particular, I wanted to improve my medical Spanish and travel abroad to volunteer in Peru. Thus, I began my uncharted 14-month journey.


I had a very specific vision for myself that no one understood. I faced many questions:

Why Peru? 

Are you scared to go alone? 

Is your Spanish good enough?

What medical skills do you have to offer? 

I began to doubt my own plan until I found FIMRC during an online search. Reading other blogs on FIMRC’s website, I became confident that my dream was achievable. Others had done this, too! I put my faith in FIMRC’s program and left home with only carry-on luggage and a stuffed llama as my travel buddy.

I chose Project Huancayo, a city similar in population to my hometown of Omaha. Upon arrival, I instantly felt at home with my host family. Throughout my two-week experience, I saw both the city and the countryside (el campo).

Each week, I was given a schedule tailored to my interests and feedback, with different activities in the morning and afternoon. At varying levels of involvement, whether working hands-on to plan and teach health topics or observing in a local hospital, I felt I was making an impact by addressing the community’s health needs and through my efforts to understand a different culture. 

During health campaigns in a local square and during home visits, my impact was immediately obvious. For example, when making visits to the homes of new mothers, I was able to talk to each mother about her postpartum concerns. Some were confused about infant feeding, some had postpartum medical complications, and some just needed their daily struggles to be heard. In one case, a FIMRC nurse decided to transport a mom to a local centro de salud (health center) in our van, as she needed advanced attention. The mother thanked us vigorously for our help, and I felt appreciated for my service. 

In other cases, my impact was not as direct. For example, when doing home-to-home surveys in el campo, the results of these efforts were not immediate. Instead, I had faith in FIMRC’s sustainable model to institute relevant programs using the data I was gathering. In these cases, I came to understand the importance of every step in grassroots projects. Being mentally and emotionally present is just as important as acting in an outwardly impactful position.

In every activity, the people were far more important than the location or action. After visiting a new mother education session just once, the mothers all knew my name. They remembered me and made me feel welcomed the next week. I found this strong sense of community every place I visited. I came to understand the pieces of my new friends’ stories and got to know their families. Whether interacting with these people for just a few minutes to take a blood test or while standing in their home among their children and animals, I learned as much, if not more, from them than I learned about the healthcare system or how to organize grassroots efforts. 

The most important take-away from my time with FIMRC was that community and friendship can heal the wounds that bandages and medicines cannot. Despite language and cultural barriers, my warm smile and gentle hug were often all that I needed to offer.

I trusted FIMRC to help me find the experience I hoped for and was not disappointed. I now have the confidence to answer all of the questions that, prior to my trip, made me doubt my goal. 

Why Peru? Because I just felt it in my heart.

Are you scared to go alone? No, because I am never alone when my goal is to reach out to those in need. Plus, I had my llama friend with me!

Is your Spanish good enough? Everyone was patient with my language skills and helped me improve along the journey. 

What medical skills do I have to offer? I can offer my passion, my dedication to understanding the community,  and the power of kindness. 

I hope that my story will inspire others to follow their dream path, too. Do not wait to pursue what you want. You do not need a reason to go. I learned my reasons after going. I believe you will never regret your choice to immerse yourself in a new culture and be part of a bigger picture through FIMRC’s programs. 

Interested in volunteering abroad or participating in our virtual programs? Check them out below!

Learn More

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.