Humanitarianism has been defined as a belief in improving people’s lives and reducing suffering (Cambridge Dictionary). Commitment to humanitarianism is not demonstrated by trite statements but rather by active generosity and helpfulness towards others, especially towards the needy or those suffering (United Nations OCHA; Merrium-Webster). Such a commitment to humanitarianism has been a thread throughout my life, and the breadth of my related experiences has informed my understanding of the human experience.
Some of my earliest experiences as a child were shaped by my time spent with my grandfather who was a prominent minister in our small but very diverse and close-knit religious community. He was well known for his generosity and the amount of time in the service of others. This time in my life was also marked by a large amount of exposure to people from a great variety of ethnic backgrounds with whom we shared a commitment to religious values, public service, and friendship.
I followed in my grandfather’s footsteps, sharing his commitment to the service of others, by also becoming a minister in my community. I would go on to learn to speak Spanish and serve in a Spanish language congregation. Incidentally, there was an older woman in the congregation, named María, who recounted to me stories of when she attended the church and sat with my family. In addition to assigned church duties, I also frequently helped members of the congregation in ways that involved teaching English, translation and assisting in public receiving services. I also had the opportunity to work with a family of Cuban refugees with two children who I assisted with similar tasks, even including attending a parent-teacher conference where I assisted with translation.
My newfound skills in speaking Spanish afforded me a job opportunity where I worked with Senior Citizens and individuals collecting disability insurance in senior centers and Latino community centers across central Massachusetts. In this role, I assisted individuals in one-on-one counselling sessions as well as larger group presentations by providing education on topics relating to Medicare and Medicaid.
Between 2011 and 2014, I experienced a traumatic crisis of faith. There is a long story here, but my former religion practices shunning so the separation was painful. Additionally, questions arose regarding my religiocultural history and identity aswell as my underlying humanitarian values highlighted earlier in this story. Ultimately, I emerged from this crisis with a new vision of what service to others would look like.
An early change came when I changed jobs and started working as a Residential Counselor and a Human Rights officer. In this job, I worked with a variety of individuals including those with recent war trauma in the Congo, developmental challenges, hallucinations, and frequent drug use. On occasion I also worked in a Crisis Stabilization Unit, working with individuals who were in crisis. I also was able to use my Spanish language skills to translate for clients who did not speak English.
During my time in college, I explored education mental health counseling where I took courses in counseling. I also explored education in School Psychology where I took courses related to elementary school teaching and I spent some time in an urban elementary school.
Ultimately, my passion for psychology lead me to believe that education in behavioral science would be a path forward. This would involve teaching behavioral science as I believe a scientific understanding of behavioral science can improve the lives of people of all sorts of backgrounds.