“It’s a completely different world. There’s literally trash everywhere,” says Robynn Parker, a clerk in the Pre-Anesthesia Evaluation Service at Sharp Coronado Hospital. “Wherever you walk, there are layers of plastic bags, cardboard, metal, bottles, tires, etc., all squashed together. And it’s where people live and work. It’s heartbreaking.”
Parker traveled to the Philippines on a humanitarian mission in 2015. She spent time in Manila with the impoverished communities in the Smokey Mountain region, named so because of the constant fire from burning trash in the now-closed landfill.
Smokey Mountain is a former dumpsite where tens of thousands of people turn to scavenging for survival. “The extreme poverty is painful to witness, I wanted to help in any way I could,” says Parker.
Parker’s team spent several days preparing care packages to distribute to the people in the region. They gave out more than 100 care packages to families, each consisting of about 5 pounds of rice, canned goods and personal care items. The mission team and Parker were also able to spend time playing, singing and reading to the children of the Smokey Mountain.
“Witnessing their environment humbles you. We have so much and they don’t have anything yet their positive attitude and demeanor would make you think they have everything,” says Parker. “I admire them, their resilience, positivity and happy demeanor regardless of their situation. They’re beautiful people … they’re inspiring.”
Parker’s trip was made possible in part by Sharp’s Humanitarian Service Program. The program provides 40 hours of paid leave time for Sharp HealthCare employees (who meet eligibility requirements) who apply for and are authorized to volunteer for programs that provide health care or other supportive services to underserved or adversely affected populations.
“I thank Sharp for supporting me in going on this incredible experience. It opened my eyes and changed my whole perspective. It has made me more sensitive to my patient's needs. It's made me realize that we do not know what our patients’ situations are outside of the hospital, so therefore we need to make sure their experience here at Sharp Coronado Hospital is met first with compassion” says Parker.
“This was my fifth trip, and each time I come back with a full heart. I know I’ll continue to go back,” she says.
Learn more about Sharp HealthCare’s work in the community.