It was late in 2002 when I got a phone call at work from a friend of a friend. Around then I’ve already started a clinic with my partners and was focusing on working on building the practice. She introduced herself as Dr. Glenda de Villa and that she was forming a cleft team and needed a speech pathologist. Having a full load, as was typical of us SP’s, I told her that I would look for another SP for her team but I’ll see her patients in the meantime.
During subsequent meetings , I and the rest of the small team of 2 surgeons, an orthodontist, and an ENT got to share in Dr. De Villa’s vision of a new service delivery model for cleft care and how a multidisciplinary team can provide world-class cleft care even to the poorest of the poor. By then we were hooked. We started seeing patients at a small charity hospital in Paranaque in March of 2003. That year we operated on 35 children and adults and provided dental, ENT, and speech therapy for many more.
Today our small team has grown into a foundation (the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation Philippines, Incorporated or NCF) that treats hundreds of patients each year. We also provide training for professionals to ensure that the treatment we provide is top-notch and state-of-the-art.
Personally and professionally, I feel I have gained much more from my volunteer work at NCF than what I have given in terms of time, money, and expertise. I have grown much more as a professional both in skills and outlook. Aside from the natural high we get when helping a fellow human being , I get a sense of fulfilment that I in my line of work can make a difference.
I highly recommend volunteering as a speech pathologist for a worthy cause. Be it one day a week or a few days a year, give your services for free to someone who needs it. Do it and do it regularly for yourself and for speech pathology as a profession.
Each individual SP’s volunteerism further legitimizes our chosen profession since we, as practicing professionals, believe in the value of our work that we deem it worthwhile to give it for free because doing so makes the world a better place to live in.
The good news is, in our line of work, one needs only to look around to find a cause worthy and dear to their heart.