CAR eye doctor, NGO among 2018 national outstanding volunteers

Two community volunteers from the Cordillera Administrative Region were among the nine awardees recently recognized as 2018 National Outstanding Volunteers by the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) at Sequoia Hotel, Quezon City.
The Search for Outstanding Volunteers aims to highlight exemplary performance and dedication to service of Filipino volunteers in helping people and communities and recognize the role of volunteerism in development and nation building.
Eye doctor with a cause
Dr. Joanne Balderas, a 53-year-old ophthalmologist from Baguio City, whose passion in her profession opened her eyes to the needs of other people, is among the three National Outstanding Volunteers – Adult category.
She has been a volunteer surgeon in various medical missions for indigent patients in the region and nearby areas.
In her acceptance speech, Balderas shared her story of volunteerism started with the willingness to say “YES” – Yes to take on new duties and responsibilities…Yes to face and deal with challenges.
“Why we choose to volunteer and take the path less traveled may have been infused with different motivations but the outcome of all these efforts have boiled down to a common good – the contribution to improve the quality of lives of people and their communities,” she said.
Motivation for volunteering
The fifth in the brood of six girls, all finishing studies to become doctors, Dr. Joanne’s volunteer work started in 1994 during her residency in Ophthalmology. Her steadfast drive to volunteering was an offshoot from the call of duty, having been assigned a Lions District position despite being new. She humbly accepted and turned each challenge into an opportunity to make a difference and a positive impact to the communities she served.
Recognizing the impact and work accomplished through collective efforts, she invited about 50 to become Lions Club members and helped form five new Lions Club through Club extension – including the Campus Lions Clubs where students and the youth are invited to join the Lions and are motivated to start community work at a young age.
She has mentored Lions members of her Club and other Lions Clubs leaders, motivating and guiding all Lions Club Presidents of Baguio City to maximize their capabilities, thus making them eligible for the LCI Club and Club President Excellence Awards.
Believing that volunteerism has no bounds, she has helped create a culture of volunteerism in service not only among Lions but also in her professional organization and the workplace-in her private clinic, at the Saint Louis University where she works as Assistant Professor at the College of Medicine, and at the Baguio Water District where she serves as a Board of Director.
LU-VMP MOMFI-3 decades of doing outreach missions
For the Organization/Non-Profit category, Saint Louis University – Vicariates of the Mt. Provinces Medical Outreach Missions Foundation, Inc. (SLU-VMP MOMFI) is cited for its more than 30 years of doing outreach missions to far flung areas with marginalized, underserved residents not only in the Cordillera provinces but nearby provinces as well.
Organized in 1985, the MOMFI has been providing free medical, surgical and dental services and educating the rural populace about Primary Health Care, Maternal & Child Care, Environmental Sanitation, Nutrition, and Personal Hygiene.
Now it has included an innovative practice of introducing evangelization as part of the medical mission.
A model volunteer organization throughout CAR in their efforts to promote the spirit of volunteerism, MOMFI is It has been repeatedly tapped for its medical missions to areas others would only dare to. Selection of a mission site is based on the criteria that health care services are inaccessible, and the population is in dire need of medical attention.
It hopes to strengthen the sense of volunteerism, exposing their volunteers to the harsh realities of life which may inspire them to join the Doctors to the Barrio programs of Department of Health after passing their Physician licensure examinations. MOMFI volunteers are alumni of SLU.
Dr. Balderas and the SLU-VMP MOMFI add up to the growing list of national volunteer awardees from the Cordillera region. **By Maria Aprila Cruz

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