Sept. 11, 2008
Most athletes are recognized for their spectacular plays, their composure on the court and their overall talent at what they do. Jesse Boulavsky is an outside hitter for the Rice volleyball team, but volleyball is not where her extracurricular activities stop.
Jesse is a devoted leader when it comes to the community. She traveled to villages throughout Ecuador in July 2008 to provide medical care for children in the area. Further, the trip was a self-planned and funded journey in an attempt to reach out to those in need.
"One day last summer, for reasons I cannot even fully explain, I woke up feeling pulled to do more," Boulavsky said. "I felt literally pulled to spread some of the fortune and the grace that I somehow received. We funded this entire trip ourselves and did a lot of fundraising for it."
Boulavsky went to Ecuador with 18 strangers--mostly doctors, nurses, dentists and a couple of medical students. The group performed free surgeries for cleft palettes and cleft lips in addition to giving out a lot of parasite medicine. They also did fluoride treatments for the children who don't get fluoride in their tap water.
"We gave out over 2,000 prescriptions and we actually had the medicine that we gave them--donated medication that we raised," Boulavsky said. "We had to bring Tylenol and Tums in addition to the crazy prescription drugs. They don't even have multi-vitamins, we brought a lot of those as well."
Boulavsky also was thrown into the position of translator. Her Spanish enabled her to assist the Ecuadorians communicate with the medical team and in the process gain valuable medical experience.
"It turned out that my Spanish surpassed that of most others on our trip, and from the very first day I became a translator for the doctor and the nurses," Boulavsky said. "I took patient histories and played messenger between the different areas of our team--pharmacy (with over 25 suitcases of donated medications), dental, medical, and health education."
Religion seemed to tie the trip together for Jesse.
"It was a Christian mission trip. We did devotionals amongst ourselves everyday in Spanish to practice," Boulavsky said. "I was a translator and after every session, when we were talking with patients, we'd pray with them that God would heal them."
One would imagine that such a journey would bring forth a new perspective on life and the world. This mission to Ecuador did exactly that for Boulavsky.
"I think the love and the joy these Ecuadorians had for life in the `Third World' was especially inspiring," Boulavsky said. "None of us can really appreciate the simplicities that we take for granted--like toilets, showers, shoes, and health care."
"Love to me has taken on a new meaning. It is possible to truly love strangers, as I witnessed firsthand. Love is the closest thing to God that we can show to each other. Like the Bible says, God is love. I think that the best way to reach people is simply to love them with all that you have, to humble yourself and to use your gifts and talents in service with a higher purpose."
Boulavsky's work in the community extends to her hometown of Houston. She performs Habitat for Humanity projects and works diligently with the Nehemiah "Christmas Angels" program.
Her experience in Ecuador along with her other community service projects makes her a guarantee to be one of Tomorrow's Leaders.
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