He's only going into his junior year at the University of Maryland College Park — with a goal of becoming a doctor — but Mays Chapel resident Roger Lin will spend three weeks in August working with a nonprofit program known as A Broader View, helping out in a medical center in the mountains of Guatemala.
"This is my chance to prove myself," he said, a spark of excitement lighting his eyes.
His summer schedule is already packed as he completes an internship, researching MRSA infections with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The internship, which began in January, ends in July.
Since he had a few weeks to fill near the end of the summer, Lin decided he wanted an experience abroad, one that would require a stethoscope and a familiarity with Spanish.
The stethoscope he plans to buy. The Spanish?
"I'm working on it," he said, adding that he has a friend fluent in Spanish helping him out.
Lin chose the program he wanted to work with the way the millennial generation finds everything. On the world wide web.
"Their service was outstanding," Lin said, recalling the enrollment process. He studied the photos and video on line and liked what he saw. "Everything clicked with me," he said.
A Broader View is a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that offers service abroad programs in everything from sea turtle conservation to community development building.
"They do everything," Lin said. One program enables pre-med students to assist doctors in non-invasive procedures, help with occupational or physical therapy, consult with patients.
Lin decided on Guatemala, a mountainside city of 250,000 called Xela. He was intrigued by its high indigenous and highly poor population, and its rural atmosphere.
He'll spend 40 hours a week in a medical center, with weekends free for sightseeing on his own.
Volunteers in Xela (pronounced (shell-ah) work with a constantly changing team, according to Sarah Comitale-Ehlers, who founded the service organization with her husband, Oliver Ehlers. Volunteers arrange their trips according to their own schedules, she said, so Lin will work with a variety of fellow volunteers in the medical clinic and with special-needs children.
The program matches volunteers with local host families and provides three meals a day and support staff to provide supervision and pick them up at the airport. "We hand pick our coordinators and our host families," Comitale-Ehlers said. "We have our hands and heads every day in A Broader View."
For Lin, the trip offers an opportunity to explore two of his interests: Hispanic culture and medicine. Lin said he studied Hispanic culture when he and his family returned to the United States from 10 years in Shanghai. Along the way, he became fascinated by "interdependent, family-oriented, romantic vibe," he said.
"I came to realize that it would be just one simple step for me to combine my two passions of health care and Hispanic culture," he said. "This mission is the product of this combination."
Although this will be Lin's first service program outside of the United States, he's already spent seven and a half years living in Shanghai where his father worked as an engineer. The family returned to Mays Chapel so he could finish his high school years at Dulaney High School, where he was a member of the Class of 2012.
His parents, J.C. Lin and Suehwa Chang, are supportive but Lin knows they are concerned. "Of course they're worried about my safety," he said. "I managed to convince them."
His mother wasn't so sure about the trip, she said. Chang said she looked up information about Guatemala on the Internet and found he had chosen a difficult place. "I am struggling to send my son to a developing country," she said.
"He has a big heart. He wants to help other people," Chang said. "I decided not to stop him."
Along with his service in Guatemala, Lin wants to create a Guatemalan version of a blog he admires in the United States, the Humans of New York. A man named Brandon collects portraits of New Yorkers and short stories about them for a blog he began in 2010. It now has six million followers and a book deal.
Lin is planning to take that idea to Guatemala. "I'll ask the locals about what they are struggling with," he said. Those answers should provide an interesting contrast to the New Yorkers' answers, he said.
Lin, who has an older sister and a younger brother and sister, has a long list of places where he has volunteered: St. Joseph's Medical Center, where he still volunteers "at odd hours," he said; Our Daily Bread, Lucky Dog Adoption in Virginia, and in-home hospice care, respite care and health screenings in the Washington area.
His mother said Lin has been a busy volunteer since high school and, although she encouraged him to take an easier path to a career, he has his sights set on medicine. "If you are happy with that I fully support you," she said she has told him. "He is a very, very good son."
Besides packing his clothes and Spanish dictionary, Lin will have to bring his own scrubs, stethoscope, gloves and mask. They are among the things the program doesn't provide.
Taking part in the A Broader View program isn't cheap. The program charges $1,195 for three weeks. Then there are travel expenses, visas and vaccinations, insurance and Internet, according to the program's website, abroaderview.org.
To help raise the funds to cover his costs, Lin went back to the web — he's crowdfunding. He pleads his case, listing all the individual expenses he faces, at http://www.gofundme.com/mountainmedicine.
And if that isn't enough, look for him on Pinterest and Facebook — "anything I can get my hands on," he said.