Today’s Turning Point story is written by Kimberly Boyd, Vice President of Mobilization and Impact at Points of Light.
I am privileged to make a career developing opportunities that bring together members of a community to achieve changes they seek. It is a unique and remarkable opportunity to “volunteer for a living.”
Recently, I reflected with a new class of national service members on their first experiences of service. We were in fact discussing the “Turning Points” in their lives. One asked me about my earliest memory of serving. As I started to recount my story, a member of my staff commented “so essentially you were a 5-year-old international drug runner,” I realized he wasn’t wrong.
My story begins in southern California in the early 1970s. I attended a large preschool program run by Franciscan nuns. They were wonderful women in full habits who ran this exceptional school in order to fully fund both a free hospital and orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. This tireless group of women was supported by another group of dedicated women, a group of mothers of children enrolled in the preschool who took on the task of procuring needed resources to support the orphanage and hospital, NOT your typical PTA. They made connections with doctors, hospitals, suppliers, donors and skilled-volunteers and generated a remarkable set of resources.
After a major earthquake in 1971, these women convinced government officials to retrieve slightly damaged medical equipment from the rubble of what had been our local hospital. Then these women, their volunteer crew, and yes their children, worked to clean, fix and pack this equipment to equip a hospital that had never had x-ray machines, surgical tables, etc.
After the success of the earthquake retrieval, the group got more creative. They began to work with nursing homes throughout the valley, organizations with extensive amounts of pre-purchased medications that went unused each month following the passing of an individual or a change in medication assignment. The nursing homes were to destroy the medication each month, perfectly good antibiotics, insulin, etc. These ladies, my mom, convinced them to hold onto it. Then they would drive around in the middle of the night, pull up to the loading doc and pick up these meds. Twice a year we would load up the trucks and drive it all – medical equipment, medicine, food, toys, clothing, etc. to Mexico.
It never occurred to my parents that we should not be a part of this. We did not call it volunteering, we were just “doing our part.” The trips were a turning point for me, remarkable poverty and yet the most remarkable spirit of kindness, the kids we visited seemed so much like us.
Here is the best part… we brought back tequila – lots and lots of tequila. Because our wonderful nuns, in full habits, hosted the biggest Cinco de Mayo party in the valley. It was their biggest fundraiser for the orphanage and hospital. Sr. David, my kindergarten teacher, was in charge of margaritas.
So those were my role models… beautiful, strong, dedicated and selfless women who were not afraid to break a few rules (or in this case international law) in order to care for these very vulnerable children. They overcame daunting obstacles and achieved remarkable results. I look back and see so many of those ladies in the work I now do. I carry their feisty spirit with me. My Turning Point… “everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten!”