At the beginning of every CENIT tour I led, I always mentioned to the bright-eyed volunteers before me, “Our community is very thankful for your upcoming service; as CENIT’s second lung, our national and international volunteer program helps keep CENIT alive.” This past year, I had the honor of serving as CENIT’s volunteer coordinator. CENIT (Centro Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia) is an NGO that offers educational, psychological, medical, and job training programs to the working children of Quito, Ecuador’s market sectors. I provided guidance to the 150 volunteers that danced, sang, and provided tutoring services for CENIT’s at-risk and working children.
As volunteer coordinator, I was tasked with resolving any issues that arose with volunteers as well as improving permanent volunteer policies. Though the role often encompassed managing volunteer projects and routine professional development, it also required responses to emergency situations that I had never dealt with before. One of my greatest challenges was to provide appropriate motivational support and organize professional services for volunteers affected by this year’s catastrophic earthquake that devastated many parts of the country.
Despite the challenges, CENIT’s volunteer programs are now stronger than ever. This year, at least a thousand Quiteños benefitted from our integrated services. The most gratifying moment of the year was participating in the programs’ closing ceremonies and witnessing the tangible impact of the work of CENIT’s staff and volunteers. Amid the tears of gratitude and farewells that accompanied each ceremony, it was clear that each participant of our programming found a safe space within CENIT’s services and received sustainable resources to help them hurdle through their current and future obstacles.
CENIT’s clients were not the only beneficiaries of the programming. My fortifying experience as a PiLA fellow allowed me to hone my confidence, dive into conflict-resolution on a professional level, and effectively manage leading an active team, all while building long-term trust with Quito’s market communities. Plus, as a future physician, I learned a skill which should come in handy during my medical career: how to successfully ventilate a second lung.