By:Mariannette González Troche
Every week, members of the microbiology student society of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez receive a friendly reminder from Laura, the secretary, via email, usually asking about our contribution for the aid of the people in need.
Laura is a young lady with brown curly hair, olive skin and a big radiant smile. She dedicates her life to her studies in biology and microbiology. Her charisma identifies her; friends of hers say her spirit will brighten anyone’s day. That is not all. Laura has a passion for helping others. She never declines a request for help. Most of all, she is known for her hard work making possible all of our student society philanthropic projects. She is the one who organizes and manages these activities.
Laura was the one who brought Operation Christmas Child from the Samaritans Purse Organization to our society. In a year, she even managed to spread the project throughout the whole Biology Department. This project consists of filling shoe boxes with toys, hard candy, clothes, school supplies, first aid items, personal hygiene products, and other necessary items for poor children around the world. The boxes are wrapped, decorated and sent by mail as Christmas presents. All of the members were supposed to make at least 1 or 2 two boxes as a requisite for membership. The first year she collected 600 boxes, but the following year, she counted approximately 1,400 boxes from the entire department. Laura has held this activity for 2 years now and has encouraged all of us to join this noble cause. This is not Laura’s only philanthropic venture.
Cell Phones Against Cancer is another activity led by Laura. The president of the microbiology student society, Ester Cuadrado, stated that around 300 pieces of old or broken cell phones, chargers, USB drives and even beepers were collected. This project was in favor of the “Hogar de niños que quieren sonreír” in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Laura motivates us to look through our homes and ask our family and friends for things to donate.
As usual, Laura is now leading yet another project called Gift of Love. This time, she is trying to collect used clothing, shoes, school supplies, and other items to send to areas of extreme poverty in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She has spread the word not only in our group, but throughout the entire Biology Department so that everyone may participate in this activity. The microbiology student society office is full of packages filled with clothes. There are so many, in fact, that she had to make various trips with a pickup truck to get some of them out of the office make room for more contributions. She will give this clothing to two different Puerto Rican organizations interested in aiding those in need that will make two trips.
Laura grew up with parents that taught her the importance of giving. She began helping others by the age of 7. As a child, she would help her mom wash and pack clothes which were sent to the poor in the United States. She watched her mother work to give physical and spiritual sustenance to families in need in many parts of the world. “People even knew where our house was. Sometimes we would come home and find trash bags full of donated clothes at our garage door,” she said. Laura’s family is constantly sending clothes, shoes and food to places where needed.
Laura does not rest. This summer she is traveling to the Amazon, in Brazil, to help in the building of underground wells for clean water sources. This project would minimize the amount of germs and bacteria in their rivers which is afflicting the population with many diseases. It seems Laura will never stop helping. She finished her double BA in May 2013 and her next step is to become a physician to work in global organizations who travel to places where there is no medical care. “I want to help these communities improve their quality of life, just like Doctors Without Borders,” Laura said. “I know the sacrifice will not be in vain.”
Laura finished her last semester in the university. She wants to encourage our society to keep doing all of the activities she got going throughout the years. She said “I will be watching from a distance; I want you guys to keep the hard work.” Nicole Valentín, an active member of the microbiology association with a smile on her face said she will surely miss those emails ending in: “The secretary is here to support you all as is the rest of the board. We will have that positive attitude that has always characterized us as SEMI [the microbiology student society] and show our department what we can do!”
The new generation of the board of the microbiology student society will always look up to her great example. “Laura will never be forgotten by any of us. I truly hope to meet more Lauras throughout my life,” said Janiret Narvaez, new member of the board. “She is definitely, one of a kind.”