Owen Ritz ’21 RGLP Reflection: “Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone, While Stepping into Peru”

Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston or Montreal, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. 

Fall 2019 participants were asked to write a blog post, reflecting on the topics and lessons learned throughout the program. Below are reflections from the Fall 2019 cohort who spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

This past summer, I participated in the Paganucci Fellows Program, which is an experiential learning program sponsored by Tuck where a team of Dartmouth undergraduates participate in a social-impact consulting project for a social enterprise in a developing country. Our client for this summer was MEDLIFE (Medicine Education Development for Low Income Families Everywhere), a Peruvian-based non-profit organization. MEDLIFE achieves their mission of empowering the poor through Service Learning Trips, which are opportunities for college students to work hand-in-hand with the local community on providing support in the form of mobile medical clinics, development projects, dental clinics, and educational workshops. MEDLIFE Service Learning Trips are intended to show students the power of listening while working with local communities, understanding the realities of extreme poverty first hand, and connecting students to the communities that MEDLIFE supports.

As a part of the Fellowship, our team of undergraduates traveled to Peru for two weeks to work with MEDLIFE in their offices and to experience a Service Learning Trip first hand. On our first day in Lima, we traveled to Pamplona Alta, which is a community that MEDLIFE has worked extensively with to revitalize their local infrastructure and healthcare. When we first visited Pamplona Alta, I was taken aback by the extreme poverty that the local community was facing. Although I had visited Peru as a young child, I never witnessed this type of poverty firsthand before, which is especially shocking considering that Pamplona Alta is a mere drive down the road from some of the wealthiest areas in South America. Although this experience initially took me out of my comfort zone, we immediately moved beyond this initial shock and reflection on our privilege to thinking about how our project would ultimately not only help MEDLIFE as a business, but in its larger efforts to lift this community out of poverty. 

On the final day of our trip to Peru, we participate in a mobile clinic with the local community in Pamplona Alta, where me and the other Dartmouth students had the opportunity to teach local preschool students how to brush their teeth with fluoride for the first time. This genuine opportunity to improve the lives of the community – by helping one crying child with their fluoride at a time – provided a meaningful connection is still inspiring and empowering every day. 

Since visiting Peru, I try to bring this same combination of curiosity and generosity to every interaction I have – whether it is helping children brush their teeth in Pamplona Alta or helping my fellow Dartmouth with a paper or problem set. I am incredibly grateful for participating in RGLP because it helped cultivate this kind of productive reflection on my own cultural experiences and inspire me to continue improving myself while empowering others.

-Written by Owen Ritz ’21, Fall 2019 RGLP Participant 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.