Jenneth Doria never forgot where she came from.
One of seven children raised by a widowed mother in Manila, Philippines, the College of Nursing assistant professor was determined to use the opportunities life in the United States affords to improve the lives of those in the country of her birth. So in 2013, she and her husband and a few friends established a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization, IHHELPP (Improving Health, Housing, Education and Livelihood of the Poor in the Philippines).
“I came from poor circumstances. And we have been really blessed with good lives,” says Doria. “I’m a humble recipient of all this American generosity—education, citizenship. I made a promise that I would do everything I could to share the blessings of this country with the poor in the Philippines.”
In just over five years, the organization has worked in storm and earthquake-ravaged communities—building three homes and seven bathroom facilities with handwash areas, or a total of 26 toilets. Volunteers also have trained workers in compressed earth block construction; stocked libraries and classrooms with books and school supplies; and handed out basic hygiene kits, school supplies, sports equipment, construction tools, and sewing and kitchen materials.
At the 2019 Honors for Nursing celebration May 9 at Grand America Hotel, Doria will receive the Dare to Care Award, which recognizes an individual’s outstanding contribution to nursing or healthcare. This year’s event marks 25 years of the University of Utah College of Nursing Alumni Board honoring nurses throughout the state for the exceptional patient care they provide. Video tributes will include grateful patients sharing their stories about the nurses honored.
Doria deserves recognition not only for her humanitarian work, says Marla De Jong, a professor at the College of Nursing and director of the Division of Acute and Chronic Care, but because of how she extends her passion for public and global health to her students, going beyond the classroom, the clinic or the hospital.
“Jenneth embraces the idea of advancing the health of individuals and communities worldwide,” De Jong wrote in her nomination letter. “She not only teaches concepts to nursing students but also role models and lives the values of competence, engagement to alleviate human suffering, and compassion.”
Two to three times a year, IHHELPP Board Members go to Philippines on their own time and expense to oversee projects and has once taken a group of youth volunteers to the Philippines to pilot a disaster-resilient home. In collaboration with U.S. partners—including Sorensen Legacy Foundation, Charity Vision and Trekking for Kids—and with local leaders in the Philippines, the nonprofit identifies areas of highest need and targets projects—from workforce training to hygiene and literacy. The group purchased four machines for making interlocking compressed earth blocks and loans them out to the workers they have trained, so construction of disaster-resilient buildings can continue in their absence.
“It’s just simple stuff, but what we take for granted here in America is so appreciated over there,” says Paul Staples, vice president of operations for IHHELPP. “They treat us like heroes. And we think, ‘All we did was give you a toilet.’ It’s really having an impact on thousands of kids.”
In one case, the nonprofit was approved to build a bathroom facility in a temporary elementary school in a community that had been bombed by government forces attempting to drive out ISIS fighters trying to gain a foothold in the Philippines. Just having running water and mirrors was enough to transform the lives of the students, Doria says."
"A clean and functional bathroom not only provides a private physical space for an individual to carry out basic bodily functions for a healthy body," she says, "but it also reinforces dignity, respect, and self-worth that strengthens humanity.”
She’s already planning her next trip.
“You don’t have to be wealthy to do this,” Doria says. “You can only sleep under one roof. You can only drive one car. But you can leverage your position to help those in need. It’s not a burden. It’s a joy to be able to do this.”