By Yadira Betances
---- — METHUEN — Lizmary Mota loves to sing, and her ambition is to become a nurse and care for others.
She is combining the two interests to brighten the lives of residents in local nursing homes.
Mota, along with other members of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Church in Lawrence, visit Colonial Heights Nursing Home in Lawrence to play games and sing songs to residents.
“We go there to spend time with the residents who paved the way for us,” Mota, 21, said. “We open our hearts and minds to them. I get a lot of satisfaction when I see them happy and smiling.”
Volunteering at Colonial Heights helped her get a job as an assistant activities director at Academy Manor Nursing Home in Andover.
Mota is taking her work with the elderly one step further with the Hope Portrait Project. She and a fellow church member visit nursing homes to document the life stories of residents in words and photography.
“Once I sat with them, I was blown away by their stories. They gave me a lot of good advice and I gained a lot of wisdom,” she said.
After each interview, each resident is provided with a framed photo and story.
She started the program after applying to the Campus Catalyst Program of Merrimack Valley Sandbox and winning a $500 grant. Mota and members of her church also take the Hope Portrait project to homeless shelters.
Working with the elderly and homeless is a natural for Mota, who is majoring in Business Management: Healthcare Practice at Northern Essex Community College. She was accepted as a NECC presidential scholar after graduating from Lawrence High in 2010.
“Lizmary, normally shy, had to stretch out of her comfort zone to present their project to more than a hundred people at the Catalyst Showcase as well as stand on stage and make a “pitch” for their project to a panel of judges. Lizmary is a young lady with a big heart on the brink of very bright future,” said Dawna Perez, Associate Dean, Access and Community Building at Northern Essex Community College
Mota, a graduate of the Math, Science and Technology High School in Lawrence, was part of a dual enrollment program at Northern Essex while in high school. She took an introductory psychology and patient care classes at Northern Essex while earning her high school diploma.
Her fascination with treating the sick led Mota and other members of her church to travel to Brazil on a medical mission with Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan) last year.
The group set up clinics in remote areas of the Amazon Basin to treat patients who otherwise would have had to travel up to two hours to see a doctor.
“That was an experience of a lifetime,” she said. “Being on the mission made me realize that I’m capable of being a nurse.”
During the two-week trip, the group slept on a boat and went days without showering. Despite the hardships, she was glad she was able to go. Her duties included registering patients in triage, bringing patients into the examining rooms, assisting dentists and leading classes for children. She was also able to see doctors perform surgery and treat people for snake bites.
“I wasn’t grossed out at all, instead, I was fascinated by it,” Mota said.
Mota was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Lawrence with her family at 4. She now lives in Methuen.
At her church, she sings in the choir, leads children’s lessons and showcases teenager’s artistic talents through variety shows.
“The basis of my religious belief is serving others, and this is what I’m doing,” she said.
Mota said her parents and other church members inspire her to volunteer.
“This is my way of giving back. What I do is nothing big, but it’s the little things that count,” she said.