Philippines: Pilipinos for Community Health

Jasmine Santos

Jasmine Santos moved to the US with her family when she was 10 years old. From a small town in the Philippines, she is now an incoming fourth year studyingBioengineering. Though no longer living in the Philippines, her time and experiences there continuously push her to give back to her motherland. Specifically, Santos reflects on the stark economic, social and political disparities in her former country. Streets were often full of homeless children selling random trinkets to get by or even begging for loose change and spare bills from passersby. Feeling fortunate in her own family’s ability to immigrate to the United States for a better life, Santos sees it as her own moral obligation to give back to those less fortunate, especially those in the Philippines. This summer, she continued her three years of service with UCLA’s Pilipinos for Community Health (PCH) as the Medical Outreach Director.



Pilipinos for Community Health is a service project under UCLA’s Community Service Commission that aims to educate and provide health services to underserved communities of Greater Los Angeles. Their programs range from mentorship advising and pre-health panels for students to health fairs, free blood pressure screenings and free body mass index measurements for individuals in the community.



The initiative that Santos was involved in this summer is the Medical Outreach Project (MO), which sends UCLA student volunteers on medical missions to the Philippines. As the Director for the 2017-2018 term, Santos spent her year coordinating trip logistics with the University of Philippines Manila as well as planning and executing PCH’s annual Medical Outreach Banquet to raise donations and medical supplies for their summer mission. She describes how many of those they serve through the Medical Outreach Project lack sufficient health insurance as well as access and transportation to medical services. Santos is incredibly passionate about the work they do and feels immense pride at playing even a small role in serving these communities.

 

While on her medical mission, Santos along with other volunteers would assist the doctors, dentists, and nurses in charge to help ensure quality medical care. For five days, they would wake up at 6 am to get ready and head for the local hospital where they would then assist medical professionals for the rest of the day. Their duties ranged from helping patients obtain the correct medication to helping doctors clean and set up their stations. As the MO Director, Santos also had to monitor her own volunteers. She would not only ensure everyone was on task but also monitor their own well-being. For example, due to the heat and humidity, she would check that her volunteers were keeping their energy up by eating and hydrating properly.

 

Despite having learned many skills during her time in the Philippines, Santos also struggled with feeling inadequate and useless at times. The PCH volunteers sometimes felt more like a hindrance than a source of support. However, the medical professionals all around them constantly showed encouragement through their willingness to teach and explain their actions to the volunteers. By the end of the trip, the volunteers’ readiness to learn and help was met by approval and support from both hospital and community leaders. Ultimately, Santos expresses her appreciation for the relationships she formed with others. She finds the memorable conversations with patients during recovery and with doctors and nurses during lunch breaks the most impactful. She not only gained valuable insights but also built a lasting bond of unity between two communities across the globe.



Overall, this experience taught her about how rewarding it can be to serve as a doctor, nurse, or dentist. Having long considered applying to medical school, her MO trip this summer secured her determination to follow the route to becoming a doctor. Additionally, it has inspired her to pursue this career in the Philippines rather than the United States so she can continue to follow her passion of giving back to this community. Her next goal is to finish out her senior year and get accepted into University of Philippines Manila’s medical school.

 

If you are interested in working with the organization, visit their website at http://pchatucla.weebly.com. You can sign for their newsletters or look up upcoming events and opportunities.

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