As an intern at World Pediatric Project, one of my biggest roles is to be the link between the families here to receive surgeries for their children, and the company itself. This results in me often being the main point of contact for the families, and a face that they know fairly well. I am often responsible for taking them to their appointments, grocery shopping, and spending time with them in whatever capacity that may be. Given this, even though I am only three weeks in, I have already formed very strong relationships with the families and their children, and I am so thankful for that. I would say that my biggest role in contributing to the overall project of helping these families while they are here, has been to be someone that they trust and know, and can rely on if they need something. To accomplish this, I would say the most useful thing that I have learned is that if I can just be someone who listens, I can build trust with them. Often times, the mothers of the children just want to talk. It might be about home, their other children, what they miss or even their favorite TV shows, but I have learned that by being someone who can simply listen and take the time to engage with them, it can go a long way. The people who work for the organization full time are extremely busy, so they don’t always have time to do this with the families. However, by being an intern, it has allowed for me to have the time and opportunity to simply get to know the families, and it has become a huge part of my role and contribution.
When it comes to a change in perspective that I have had that has enhanced a project, what comes to mind is not a typical project scenario. There is one child at World Pediatric Project who is painfully shy. He is three, and recently had a trach removed. When I first met him, he wouldn’t even let me see him. He would hide behind his mother or even in another room. He wouldn’t make eye contact, and he definitely wouldn’t talk to me. After multiple days of not making any progress, I started to become frustrated– it was like talking to a wall. Especially because his mother told me that when it was just the two of them, he wouldn’t stop talking. Honestly, I was beginning to give up on him. I figured maybe if this little boy saw me talking and interacting with the others, perhaps he would open up. I was wrong, and a week and a half later I still hadn’t even gotten so much as a curious stare. I asked his mother, “Does he interact with other children at home?” To which she responded, “Oh yes, he will play soccer outside with older boys all day long, and he will talk and talk.” So I turned to him and told him I wanted to play soccer with him. I wasn’t sure if he heard me because at first he kept his back to me. But then, he slowly got up and went and got his ball. The next thing I knew, he kicked it to me, and before long, he was asking me questions and showing me things. His mother was shocked, I was astonished, and so was everyone else. It gave me and the others on the team a new perspective; it was simple yet a subtle reminder that if we slow down and figure out how to relate to someone (even a three year old little boy) it can make all the difference in the world.