Our Incredible Humans contest was all about championing the people who build up our communities. The prize? A chance to win a FREE Contiki trip (with flights) or a $500 Travel Voucher. From healthcare workers to activists to delivery drivers and everyone in between we all know Incredible Humans. No matter what their job title, we want to show that no good act, big or small, goes unnoticed.
With hundreds of entries from all over the US and UK, we couldn’t wait to announce the first Incredible Humans contest winner!
And the first Incredible Humans US contest winner is...
Melissa – a fantastic nurse from Miami, Florida. Melissa has been a nurse for nearly 10 years and most recently been working with kids with cancer or blood disorders, from newborn babies to young adults in their early twenties.
We were able to chat with Melissa and discuss all things nursing, Covid-19 and travel. Read on for more of Melissa’s story and her fresh perspective on why we should all remain hopeful during these testing times.
Hi Melissa, tell me about you and what do you do?
“I’ve been a nurse for a little less than 10 years now and started my career in a mental health facility for women with eating disorders. After that, I started working with kids who have cancer and blood disorders and have been doing so the last six years.”
“I always knew I wanted to go into medicine but I wasn’t certain about nursing. When I first started I never thought I’d work with kids. It’s one of those things that happened because it wasn’t something I wanted but rather something I needed. It has given me perspective and taught me humility and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
“To think volunteering led me here feels like fate. I am so passionate about my work now and every experience I’ve had led me to the career and place I was meant to be.”
Here’s what Jennifer a friend and the nominator had to say about Melissa: “My friend Melissa is one of the kindest and selfless human beings walking this planet. Day in and day out, she works with children suffering from cancer.
“I’ve always considered her a hero, but these days she’s working in the COVID-19 unit of the hospital caring for those affected by the virus. Miami became the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus and she hasn’t missed one day of work this year! She puts on her protective equipment and never once complains. She lives to serve others and she hasn’t taken a vacation in years. Melissa dedicates herself fully to her job and she needs a break. I know her dream is to travel to Europe and go on a Contiki trip. I can’t think of anyone more deserving than her!”
What was your initial reaction to being nominated and then becoming our Incredible Humans contest winner?
“It was a HUGE shocker! My friend Jennifer who made the submission and called and told me ‘I did a thing.’ At first, we joked and thought it could be fake.
“But I loved that she thought my story was worth mentioning, to me that was more lovely than anything else. Of course, I feel so honored to have been selected and I love that Contiki is honoring people in this way. More than anything I was so beside myself at the fact that my friend thinks so much of me to submit something so nice. It truly meant so much to me.”
Why do you love to travel?
“I love culture and being exposed to different cultures and environments. What I love the most about traveling is that it gives you perspective. My mantra is ‘Nothing grows inside your comfort zone.’ So if something makes you feel uncomfortable you should certainly explore that.
“I love meeting new people and have traveled by myself numerous times, I’ve met a lot of great people traveling. But I’ve also traveled solo and I find comfort in doing that. Seeking out scenarios where you have to sit and be by yourself to grow and find that relationship with yourself… and find your own company pleasant.
“I haven’t had a lot of time off because of the increased demands of healthcare workers this year, so I’m thrilled to take a break and separate myself from some of the tough reality we’ve been dealing with the last six months. I’ve done a bit of traveling but have never been out of the country. This year, I haven’t been able to do any travel because of the Covid-19 restrictions and especially with my job.
“Once you live in a place for a certain amount of time, you forget that other places in this world exist and have very different realities than your own. Traveling makes you broaden that part of your mind.”
Tell me about your experience working as a nurse in the midst of a global pandemic?
“Initially, when it all began my home unit of pediatrics took a big hit. So I and a lot of other nurses were displaced, meaning a nonvoluntary transfer or reassignment.
“I was transferred to the Covid-19 unit to help patients who had contracted the virus. At first, I was both nervous and scared because I was helping a different population entirely through a virus that we were and are still learning so much about. But it also came with the stress of being exposed and exposing my loved ones.
“Now, I have so much hope that all of our hard work and sacrifices will make a difference and we will begin seeing the light at the end of the tunnel very soon.”
What is your hope for the future?
“I know at this time we are all feeling tired and exhausted. And there is a heavy emotional toll as well but these last six months I’ve seen so much community. People from all walks of life coming together to donate time, meals, support, and love.
“So even though things may seem grim, there has been this huge shift and sense of coming together even from a distance. With everything else going on, I’ve been inspired to see so many people take care of others. It has given me so much hope for the future, eventually, we will get normalcy back but I really hope we remain so connected with our families, new friends, old friends, neighbors, and strangers.”