Pictured: Kyle Smith (center) at our 2019 Rockers in Relief event in NYC. Photo: Sabine Thompson
My very first experience with NECHAMA was volunteering at a fundraising event in New York City called Rockers. During this time, I was able to meet staff and volunteers of the organization who provided firsthand accounts of the incredible work that NECHAMA provides to those in what could be considered their greatest hour of need. The amount of dedication, passion, and work that was described captured my heart for the organization’s purpose. It is through the people that work and volunteer with NECHAMA that brought me to consider becoming a board member.
Growing up in Kentucky with varying states of social and economic status taught me that not everyone is afforded the same opportunities in life. I was taught that helping others is not only something that I should do, but something that is a vital part of life. I have sought volunteer opportunities most of my teenage years and all of my adult life. From living and serving in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, working with or leading groups for various volunteer activities such as 5Ks and charity dinner, and working with groups in my home church gives me a broad spectrum of volunteerism.
My time in Haiti is very special to me. A very influential person in my life once challenged me to find my Calcutta. In Haiti, my work primarily consisted of leading various teams from the US, assisting with mobile medical clinics, and working in a clinic in the village of La Digue. I learned so much from my trips and residency in this country and it changed my entire outlook on life. Haitian citizens are so grateful for everything you do to help them, so the smiles, blessings, and friends that I made live on in my everyday life. Helping others, for me, is about inspiring positive change within the world, and sometimes, that change begins in you.
As a registered nurse, I have a true passion and strong commitment to helping others. My current work is in cardiovascular intensive care, which encompasses heart and lung transplants, open heart surgery, mechanical circulatory support, and thoracic surgery recovery at the University of Kentucky. I also am an adjunct clinical instructor for Morehead State University. My prior work is in emergency medicine, which is an experience beyond anything I am able to describe.
Most recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer with NECHAMA in Minneapolis. Throughout the few short days I was there, I helped move solar equipment and assist with the shower trailers within the city park aiding the homeless, stocked shelves within a foodbank pantry to help prepare for distribution, and repaired walls and painted a store front within the community. The solar equipment was provided by another Minneapolis based NPO called Footprint Project. Seeing first-hand how small actions and caring attitude can positively impact the daily life of those suffering was profound, and that experience will carry with me for the rest of my life. Being able to see several groups come together for the greater good of a community was an amazing experience.
In life we encounter things that can alter our trajectory, either negatively or positively. I have a strong passion to help those that are in need. My encounters through volunteerism has changed my personal trajectory many times, each time for the better. I am here at NECHAMA to help, and I am certain that I will find many ways to do just that!