Submitted By Kath Pengelley, Lifeworks volunteer and advocate coordinator
Late last April, I placed a volunteer opportunity on the Hastings United Way e-volunteer network for an activity assistant. I never know who will respond to these requests and am always appreciative of the responses. However, I was surprised when the volunteer who responded came all the way from Guatemala. Meet Jose Rodrigo Moll Duran.
Rodrigo is on an extended visit in the United States to practice his English speaking skills. He has friends in Hastings and could not think of a better way to learn English than to volunteer in an English speaking community. He also has a huge personal commitment to giving back and helping others.
He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering in Guatemala and plans to go on to graduate school in Aachen, Germany, to obtain his Master’s degree in Medical Engineering. Rodrigo’s ultimate goal is to work in the field of Tissue Engineering. He is fluent in Spanish, German, and wants to perfect his English. He saw my posting on the e-volunteer network and thought he would check us out.
“Your clients are so open. They have so many interests and they want to know about me and my culture. They like to participate. I have taught them some of my words and they have helped me with yours.”
We have enjoyed our international guest enormously and are happy to spend time talking, learning, and sharing with him. Our Hastings clients say that they are benefitting more than Rodrigo when it comes to learning about the Guatemalan culture, language, customs and celebrations. I asked Rodrigo if he had experienced any surprises during his time at Lifeworks, and he said, “Your clients are so open. They have so many interests and they want to know about me and my culture. They like to participate. I have taught them some of my words and they have helped me with yours.”
I asked Rodrigo what obvious differences he sees in services for people with disabilities comparing Lifeworks to services in Guatemala. His previous experiences are exclusively with children, so his comments were limited, but he did say that in general people with disabilities in Guatemala are not as comfortable expressing their feelings, thoughts, or needs. I guess those self advocacy classes that we have been offering are helping.
In November, Rodrigo will be returning to Guatemala to take the graduate school entrance exam and then hopefully make arrangements to move to Germany. As he jets off to his next adventure, we wish him well and say, “Adios amigo.” We hope that as he travels the world, he will remember us and perhaps one day return to teach us about German culture, language, and customs. Thank you Rodrigo for volunteering at Lifeworks. We wish you well.
If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Lifeworks, please call me. Kath Pengelly 651-365-3720 or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.