Last month on Nov. 8, the Philippines were devastated by one of the strongest tropical storms on record, Typhoon Haiyan. When Haiyan made landfall, it was 300 miles across, brought sustained winds of over 195mph, torrential rains and a storm surge of up to 30 feet that wrought destruction to the coastal communities.
In its wake, the Philippines were left in near ruins. Countless are dead, and hundreds of thousands are left without homes and power. The situation is desperate, and the need for help and emergency care is astronomical.
In response, several nonprofit organizations have brought together groups of volunteers to assist in the emergency relief process. One of these groups is the Project HOPE Volunteer Foreign Medical Team. And one of the volunteers in that group is Dr. Patricia Olenick, Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
"There are exhausted people trying to reconstruct their lives among the rubble, but there is also the resilient spirit of the Filipino people," said Dr. Olenick.
Olenick left on her mission with Project HOPE on Tuesday, Dec. 3., and is scheduled to remain in the region for three weeks. Upon her arrival, she will provide much needed maternity care in the Tapaz region of the country at a hospital that was heavily damaged by the typhoon.
"We can provide some support for their community clinic, the birthing center and the small hospital that is trying to carry on their limited services as best they can," said Dr. Olenick.
Olenick states that she herself is attached to the Philippines region because she had lived there as a child, before her family returned to the States. Since, she has looked for any opportunity to return to the region.
"I jumped at the chance to return in 2012 with Project Hope, and I think that experience helped prepare me for this mission," said Dr. Olenick.
Project HOPE was founded in 1958, and has since worked in more than 120 countries with the focus of making quality and sustainable health care available for people around the globe.
This charitable work is right up Dr. Olenick's ally, as she understands the need to give back to communities in need, and the powerful affect that such an act of kindness in these communities can have.
"Sometimes you can get discouraged with the wars and violence in the world news, but when you put small groups together with common goals, it seems that our differences don't matter as much as what we share in common," said Dr. Olenick. "I think that basically making friends and connecting one on one, helping out when you can, is one path to peace."