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When I heard that this year’s Carolina Medical Mission (CMM) trip would take place in Zambales, a town adjacent to where my father was born and raised, I knew it was divine intervention that I should volunteer.
My father had followed the American Dream and joined the U.S. Navy, proudly retiring after serving 23 years. Sadly, he passed away on June 7, 2010, from leukemia.
Having been a member of the Philippine American Association of North Carolina for the past decade, I was familiar with CMM, but I hadn’t previously thought about volunteering. When I told my mother, about the trip, a spark ignited — we felt “called” to serve. We also enlisted my 19-year-old daughter, Naomi, to experience what we hoped would be a life-changing journey for the three of us.

An Authentic Connection

It was a busy week: Hundreds of Filipinos were served by Laura and her family at the Carolina Medical Mission.It was a busy week: Hundreds of Filipinos were served by Laura and her family at the Carolina Medical Mission.

On the first day of the weeklong mission, we were woken at 5:30 a.m. to a cacophony of roosters crowing outside the hotel. Mother Nature’s alarm provided a rude awakening to the first of our 12-hour work days.
I made my way to the balcony. What I saw and felt made me exhale with satisfaction. My tired eyes gazed at the rising sun, adrenaline coursing through my veins. My heart beat with the strength to tackle the unknown medical issues I would face with 52 other volunteers in the days to come.
Thanks to Carolina Medical Mission and Cisco, I had the opportunity to use my Time2Give to help impoverished Filipinos in desperate need of health, dental, ophthalmic, and surgical care.
The experience really changed me. For the first time, I was able to connect with my Filipino heritage in an authentic way. I also gained a better understanding of humility and patience, two deeply rooted Filipino traits that I experienced during the mission and have started to engender daily at home and at Cisco.

Right Where I Was Supposed to Be

Laura administering an EKG on her 5-year-old patient.Laura administering an EKG on her 5-year-old patient.

On the first day, I helped in the reading glasses station. It was the most bustling station where patients waited for hours. The second day allowed me to learn something new — something outside of my comfort zone. I assisted in doing EKGs, which assist doctors in diagnosing patients who suffer from heart problems, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and many other maladies.
It was ultimately the station where I felt I was supposed to be.
My mentor was a great teacher and remained very patient. She not only explained what I needed to do for an accurate EKG reading but went into detail about why I needed to do it.

Fostering Safety and Trust

As a public relations manager, I work daily with the media and executives. Communicating with people and connecting with them in a way that builds trust has always been one of my natural strong suits.
I was able to use this skill to allow patients to feel comfortable and safe. This “work” skill was directly transferrable to the mission, especially when a good number of the patients had never been to a doctor or had an EKG.

Warmth, Hospitality, Positive Attitude

During one of our breaks, my daughter, who worked in the pediatric pharmacy during our trip, detailed how happy the children looked even though poverty surrounded them. Despite the conditions, Filipinos still managed to exude warmth, hospitality, and a positive attitude.
I don’t know whether it’s due to their strong religious faith or the beautiful tropical surroundings…perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Laura with her mother and daughter Enjoying a celebratory luau at the end of the mission.Laura with her mother and daughter Enjoying a celebratory luau at the end of the mission.

My journey, thanks in part to Cisco, impacted me in a way that words cannot fully describe.
Born at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, I am an American citizen with Filipino and Chinese heritage. It took me 51 years to set foot on Philippine soil. Three generations of my family were deeply and profoundly touched by our experience.
People may be aware of how Cisco technology changes the lives of its customers, but maybe not how Cisco positively impacts the lives of its employees!
I have been a Cisco employee for 13 years; I know firsthand how Cisco creates an environment that allows employees to be the bridge and affect positive change. By volunteering to help make people’s lives better, my life has been changed forever.

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