One of the things we are proud of at OTFE is the ability to provide our scholars with an opportunity to give back to their local communities through volunteer based service work. OTFE partners with various Peruvian & American volunteers in a myriad of different fields including optometry, opthalmology, nursing, nutrition, psychology, and cardiology to provide free medical services to underprivileged populations who have difficulty accessing care. This has proven to be an invaluable opportunity for our scholarship recipients to receive hands-on experience in their career of interest, while working alongside Peruvian and American professional mentors. We are deeply grateful for our volunteers who make a difference in the lives of our scholars and their local communities.
One of the most memorable experiences in my life was joining the Olive Tree Foundation for Education on a mission trip to Lima and Cuzco, Peru in July 2013. This trip was focused on providing eye care, heart care, and mental health care to local impoverished citizens; however, so much more was done. I quickly learned small acts of kindness, something as simple as being nice, showing someone that you care, or playing with a child, has the biggest impact. As someone with a strong southern accent and a pour tongue for language, I was touched by all of the local women who laughed with me and showed me compassion as they assisted me in perfecting the simple phrase “Siéntate, por favor” as they waited in line for their eye exams. Moved by the way their faces lit up looking through their new glasses for the first time. Humbled by the sweetness of their hugs and gratitude for simply listening to their concerns about their children. I learn the basic life necessities are not always a given. I saw how children and families were outcast due to unavoidable differences such as a birth defect, lack of education, or status they were born into. I witnessed resilience and ingenuity as locals forged for food and shelter in the streets or the Missionary of Charity sisters worked in orphanages to provide care to the outcast children. I also experienced the stark contrast of the wealthiest wealthy and the poorest poor, often separated by a mere wall.
During this trip, we partnered with local university students who majored in Psychology to provide educational materials about parenting, childhood development, and some very generalized counseling. These students who often traveled far to make their education a priority and did not take a second of learning for granted. Being a clinical psychology doctoral student myself at the time, I was surprised at how different our educational focuses and our resources were. These students were eager to learn from us and help us help the families we met. Despite their hardships, most Individual and families’ questions were the same as any parent in the United States: how to manage difficult behavior, marital discourse, child development, and educating their young children. Responses and plans were different though given their hardships and took a lot of consideration that the local students were able to provide.
I was impressed by Dr. and Mrs. Olivos’ dedication to not only the local families we served but also both the Peruvian and American students working with them. At the end of the day, they made sure to check in with everyone and process their experiences. They wanted to make sure everyone was well taken care of and educated about the impact we were having. They showed us the beauty of Peru and its heritage. Meeting families that had traveled by foot or bus from remote areas to update them of their lives showed how important they are to this community.
Dr. Rebecca Wallace
New Orleans, Louisiana
Dr. Thomas Oswald
Our 2013 service trip to the Peruvian cities of Lima and Cuzco via The Olive Tree Foundation for Education, Inc. was bursting with contrast. Pisco sours. Insta-coffee. Cuy. American Chili’s. Tranquility. Altitude sickness. Presidential luxury. Poverty. Green mounds rising above the clouds. Mounds of trash engulfing streets. People radiating cultural roots. Sick orphans. Laughter. Crying. Smiles. Tears. Blurry reality. Focused vision. Students. Mentors. Emotional distress. Emotional growth. Americans. Peruvians.
We spent ten days navigating these contrasts in an effort to provide mental health education and support to community members patiently awaiting their turn to meet with a doctor that could improve quality of life with a pair of eyeglasses. Life changing to all involved. Our group of American psychology graduate students were fortunate enough to pair up with psychology students from Peru within a mentorship role in order to provide these supportive services to the people of Peru. As we began to speak with the community, I erroneously assumed that their complaints and emotional distress would revolve around this world of contrast. Socioeconomic status. Illness. Access to services. Rather, familiar topics emerged. Marital strain. Interpersonal difficulties. Unruly children. Substance misuse. Low self-esteem. Worry. Loneliness. I learned valuable lessons, both personally and professionally, from this commonality amongst the contrast.
Seven years ago, that service trip focused my understanding of several concepts that I continue to utilize in my daily professional work, including cultural differences, human similarities, resiliency, disorders of consciousness, gratitude, supportive psychotherapy, and genuineness. However, the appreciation I gained for the concept of commonality amongst contrast has fueled interventions that I implement still today with my acutely injured patients to enhance their pursuit of emotional balance. Each day, I challenge patients to identify three negative experiences and three positive experiences from their day. This reflection helps us appreciate the contrasts, set goals to decrease the negative, and remain grateful for the positive. If practiced daily, this exercise keeps us attuned to our emotional balance - or unbalance. Regardless of our current emotional state, we become confident that tomorrow is a new day, with another chance to balance the scale. A way of thinking inspired by the Andean spiral, a symbol seen throughout Peru, explained to us while discussing Pachamama in a local marketplace up in the mountains.
Partnering with the local psychology students and interacting with the local communities of Peru regarding mental health was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that altered my professional attitudes and hopefully has benefited patients I have treated since. Despite our differences, we will all continue to grow as long as we put effort towards appreciating and helping each other.
Investment Advisor Representative
Winston-Mazuelos & Co.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Deep and strong family values are what guides The Olive Tree Foundation for Education. I have known Dr. William Olivos and his lovely wife Susan for many years. In fact, my parents were best friends with William’s parents since we were young kids. Our families have grown together and remain close until this day.
Every time I see the Olivos family together I am blessed with all the love and care they so generously give away. I saw it firsthand when I joined them during a medical mission trip to Cuzco, Peru. Susan called me one day and said, “primo (cousin) I need your help!” She was looking for volunteers who could help translate with the group of optometrist doctors and student doctors coming from the U.S. - without hesitation I said “Yes!” I have been to Cuzco many times and for me it is a magical place – how could I say no. Susan also wanted me to use my skills in business and investments to teach classes on how to grow your business and handle your money. The medical mission was a success – hundreds of people came from far away for free eye exams and select surgeries. We worked long days, but the rewards lasted even longer. We laughed, we sang, we prayed – and we even shed some tears. Watching young kids sob because they could read again after months without glasses (because theirs either broke or were lost) really fills your heart with joy! This is the work the Olivos family have been doing for many years.
With the Olive Tree Foundation for Education, Willy and Susana continue their great work by sponsoring college students in Lima and Huancayo, Peru. Some of the brightest students in the poorest countries do not have the financial means of pursuing their dreams to attend college. With these scholarships they can. Nelson Mandela was once quoted as saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Many of these scholarship recipients graduate to work in their own communities. These scholarships are not to be paid back… they are to be paid forward!
Fundraising Secretary & Volunteer
My name in Marcia Goodwin and I live in Jupiter, FL. In July of 2005, while volunteering on a church mission trip to Lima, Peru, I met Dr. & Mrs. William Olivos and their daughters of The Olive Tree Foundation For Education.
Shortly thereafter, I was invited by them on a private mission trip, back to Lima, Peru. I had the opportunity to work side-by-side with The Olivos Family as well as optometry students which were sponsored by the Olive Tree Foundation For Education. Although there were hundreds of people to see and much to do, we all worked together as one team to serve those in need. From administration of eye exams to filling optometric prescriptions, our days were filled with joy. Seeing people who, prior to visiting the clinic, had issues with sight (or no glasses at all), suddenly re-gain their ability to see and read, was such a blessing for all of us. The Peruvian people are so humble and loving, amid the most dire of circumstances. They find the strength and tenacity to walk many miles to receive the care they so desperately need.
This trip had such a humbling and impactful impression on me, that I took several other mission trips to Peru with The Olive Tree Foundation. The work that was done during those trips, not only changed the lives of the people who received eye care from our team, but also impacted the volunteers, including the optometry students, on our team. They were able to gain field experience during these trips which prepared them for their future endeavors.
Dr. and Mrs. Olivos and all of their family have dedicated their lives in helping others both locally and internationally. The Olive Tree Foundation not only provides eye care to those living in impoverished areas, but also provides education to young medical professionals in Peru and other Latin American countries. By doing so, it leaves a legacy of hope and healing to those it educates and well as the people they serve.
Meeting and serving with The Olive Tree Foundation has been one of the highlights of my life. I wholeheartedly support all that they do to add value to others. They have become like family to me and to many others living here and abroad. And for that I am eternally grateful.