With everything that is happening to the country right now, it can be easy to overlook the small wins that make better days for everyone in the community.
One of these wins is the efforts of young volunteers who have been working quietly: medical students who stepped forward to contribute success to the vaccination efforts that are rolling out in cities across the country.
For them, heeding the call of service—and working to offset the shortage of health workers—brings light to even the most challenging of days. Meet these everyday heroes with a strong spirit of volunteerism and who wear their masks with pride.
“Being in the medical field, I think volunteerism is a part of my calling,” said Therese Marie Grace Adlawan, 26. The Brokenshire College, Davao, medicine student said that the privilege and capability to be a part of vaccination teams are valuable experiences especially during the pandemic.
Since last year, Adlawan has been volunteering in various capacities and in different venues in Davao. She became even more active when she got vaccinated.
“I want to be God’s instrument of good,” she said.
The many people that she meets along the way continue to inspire her to do the work that she does.
On the frontlines
Adlawan has been on the frontlines of vaccination programs in Davao. She worked as a screener for sites that catered to hundreds of patients. She also served in an isolation facility during her residency stint.
In August last year, she was assigned to the UP Mindanao COVID-19 isolation facility. She remembers looking after an elderly woman who was depressed and homesick.
“She was COVID-19 positive, had comorbidities and was sad. I called her every day and I would listen to her stories about her grandchildren. Our conversations would always bring her joy and energy,” Adlawan said. “After every phone call, she would always tell me: ‘Thank you, Doc. Mao lang gud ni akong gusto. Salamat sa pagpaminaw. (This is all I want. Thank you for listening to me.)’.”
Adlawan said that volunteering these days is different. “We know the challenges but we also know that we are doing this for the entire country’s immediate welfare—and vaccination is needed by every Filipino for health and economic recovery.”
Since the pandemic, Brent Cedrix Saludo, 24, has been busy doing volunteer work because of his affiliation with the Davao City Chapter of the Philippine Red Cross.
The medical laboratory science student has had volunteering experience since 2014—being on the field is no longer new to him.
“I am part of the team that holds meetings and orientations for the many other volunteers in Red Cross,” he said. Saludo believes in teamwork—it drives him to be at his best in everything he does.
Being the team head for deployment, he handles coordination and administrative work for the many other volunteers under his watch.
“We check equipment, plot schedules, ensure attendance, monitor sites, file reports and communicate with supervisors,” he said.
It’s a lot of work but he is not daunted. He knows that what he does brings order and success to vaccination.
“As a Red Cross volunteer, I’ve met different kinds of people who have been a part of my growth as an individual,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunities to lead others and to be a better person. Volunteering during this pandemic allowed me to appreciate my academic study, too, because I get to work and at the same time educate people about health.”
He believes that there are so many things that the youth can do during this pandemic; one of these is to fight misinformation in their own ways.
Janine Israel, 25, continues her volunteer work because she is looking forward to better days.
“I know that at some point in time, we can finally stop this pandemic,” said the medical student from Brokenshire College.
She only started volunteering last July but her heart for service has been steadfast ever since. “Being a part of the medical community, I want to contribute to fight this pandemic,” she said. “I want to be part of the force that provides people with the protection.”
Israel has clocked in hours doing tasks from counseling to post-vaccination monitoring. Moments of service taught her to be selfless to her community.
“I forgot to eat lunch one time because I was so in the zone,” she recalled with a laugh. She feels fulfillment every time she serves a person who is excited to get the vaccine.
“Volunteering sparks humility,” she said. “It gave me a sense of purpose and taught me compassion and kindness for humanity. These experiences not only changed me as a future medical doctor, but as a person,” she said.
Will she do it again? Her answer is yes. Her tip for students who want to volunteer: take good care of your health and don’t skip lunch.
“Ever since I was in university, I would always volunteer in events that were under my nursing course,” said Allyssa Geraldine Arancel, a 25 year-old-nurse and medical student. “By engaging in volunteer work, I get to enhance my communication and psychomotor skills. Talking to different people with different backgrounds allows me to discover dimensions outside my comfort zone.”
During the vaccinations in Davao, she was part of the team at the SM Lanang Premier vaccination site and she also volunteered at her alma mater Ateneo de Davao University. She took on many tasks from screening and inoculations to counseling and post-vaccination.
“I will never forget the people I met along the way—one of them was a girl about my age,” she said. “She didn’t understand COVID-19 variants and their health implications. I gave some explanations and we got so into the conversation that we didn’t notice the queue behind her. Seeing her welcome new learnings about health made me feel fulfilled.”
She learned this: Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people who are in need.
“If you’re looking for a sign to be part of the helping hand in this medical history, this is it! But before you volunteer, make sure you’re vaccinated, too!”