A volunteer’s story of giving back and making an impact

Interview with DRI Foundation volunteer Angeli Medina, CBCP

After Angeli Medina, a CBCP certified nurse, won prize money at a raffle during DRI International’s annual conference, she decided to put the money to good use in the Philippines in a tradition known as ‘balik turo’ or going home and giving back to community. The DRI Foundation interviewed Angeli to learn more.

DRI Foundation (DRIF): Tell us a bit about what you do and how you became involved with DRI International and the DRI Foundation?

Angeli Medina: I’m a nurse at the Veterans’ Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System, Manhattan Campus. I was the Patient Care Team Coordinator in the Admitting/Emergency Room during 911. That was my first test and experience with a disaster. It was very moving because I saw how cohesive we New Yorkers are in times of crisis. Ever since then I’ve been involved with disaster training.

A CERT colleague realized that I was passionate about disaster preparedness and suggested that I look into DRI, so I checked the website and read the 10 Professional Practices. I then took the BCLE 2000 class and was deeply inspired by what I learned. I was sitting at the airport on my way to Manila, Philippines – having been deployed to respond to Super Typhoon Haiyan — when my CBCP certification got approved and I thought, what great timing!

DRIF: Can you tell us about your volunteer contributions to disaster preparedness?

Angeli Medina: I was deployed by National Nurses United (NNU) as a nurse volunteer to participate in a medical mission to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan alongside a team of doctors from the Philippines who provided medications and medical supplies. It was a very moving experience to meet and help the victims. It was humbling to see how patient and persevering they were in the midst of chaos. The children told me that the sound of the wind and rain woke them up at night and scared them. We asked the children to draw what they experienced and they drew two big waves that came together. The victims of Typhoon Haiyan are heroes that exemplify kindness, patience and resiliency.

7Angeli Medina (front row, right) was deployed by National Nurses United (NNU) to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan alongside a team of doctors from the Philippines. She received approval for CBCP certification while on her way to the Philippines.

DRIF: What’s one thing most people don’t understand about the role of disaster risk reduction and preparedness?

Angeli Medina: In the Philippines for example, you can move people to a safer area, but people will want to go home after the incident. There is a sentimental value and a business livelihood associated with the place. The only way to implement risk reduction is to help people relocate to a safer area and promote business or livelihood in the relocated area. To implement a plan, you have to find common ground that will benefit the people and collaborate with the legislators to implement zoning or legislative act which can be challenging. You have to be patient and help them understand the reason for mitigating, and provide people with the tools to be self-sufficient. Educate, educate, educate!

DRIF: Why is promoting a culture of disaster preparedness important to you?

Angeli Medina: It is important to promote a culture of disaster preparedness incorporating mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery through education, training and collaboration in order to save human lives and protect the economy of the country. I believe that education is about teaching people face to face, interacting, collaborating, and doing exercises or drills. In order to save lives, you have to promote a culture of preparedness. Without hands-on training, people may not remember. If you consistently educate, train and provide exercises or drills, the survival rate will be much greater.

DRIF: How can other industry professionals play a role in building resilient communities worldwide?

Angeli Medina: Certified Business Continuity Professionals (CBCPs) need to promote Business Continuity through risk analysis, gap analysis, HVA, mitigation, preparedness, exercises, and drills in order to better respond and minimize recovery time. The Joint Commission (JC) praised the staff of St. John’s Medical Center of Joplin, Missouri for being resilient in the aftermath of EF5 vortex tornado and JC stated that the success of the medical center was due to their disaster preparedness that advocated Mitigation, Preparedness, Response & Recovery (M+P+ R2) through practice, exercises, and drills.

Everything starts from within. As individuals, people must ensure their personal safety in order to be of help and use to their workplace and their community. Community members need to participate through volunteer work and attending disaster preparedness training. Training helps a community act as one entity using clear communication and following an Incident Command that leads the community in responding collaboratively during a disaster until help comes from the city, state or federal government. This will help communities be resilient.

8 Angeli in Middle

Angeli Medina (center left) donated the prize money she won at the DRI conference raffle to buy books for those who attended her course on Core Disaster Life Support at the University of the Philippines College of Nursing.

DRIF: Why did you choose to donate your prize money from the DRI 50/50 raffle to the University of the Philippines College of Nursing?

Angeli Medina: When I won the DRI raffle prize at DRI 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia, I knew in my heart that I was going to use it in the Philippines for a good cause. I had just received an email from the University of the Philippines College of Nursing (UPCN) inviting me to do a lecture – we call it ‘balik turo’, which means coming home and giving back to the community through teaching. When I found out that the UPCN is a Secretariat for the Asia Pacific Disaster Preparedness and World Health Organization Collaborator, I immediately thought of donating the money to buy books on Core Disaster Life Support to help them learn a systematic and standardized approach to disaster preparedness. Meanwhile, the National Disaster Life Support Foundation also invited me to give a lecture on Core Disaster Life Support (CDLS). So I donated the money I won in the raffle to buy the CDLS books for faculty members attending the course. One lecture incorporated what I learned from DRI about business impact analysis, lessons from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and another covered CDLS.

The Philippines is anticipating a critical earthquake scenario, based on the West Valley Fault that runs from Bulacan, through Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, Makati (heart of the commercial center), Taguig, Muntinglupa, Rizal, Cavite and ends in Calamba, Laguna. For the past decade, the Philippine government has been relentlessly researching the earthquake faults in collaboration with a Japanese Special Team and in partnership with the Geosciences Australia under the Risk Analysis project. The UPCN requested me to focus my lecture on the West Valley Fault earthquake scenario. I believe in promoting a culture of disaster preparedness through education. By providing education and repeated training on disaster preparedness until it becomes second nature, people will remember what to do in times of disaster.  People must learn how to protect themselves in order to help protect others. We are in the midst of a disaster era – there is no other way but to mitigate, prepare, respond, and help others to survive.


Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda struck the Philippines in November 2013. The Red Cross estimates that 16 million people, across 40 provinces were affected by the typhoon and more than 1 million homes damaged or destroyed. UNICEF estimates that among those affected approximately 6 million were children.

DRIF: Your generous gesture resonates with the DRI Foundation’s mission of community preparedness. How will this initiative help educate/benefit Manila communities?

Angeli Medina: The lectures that I gave at the UPCN and Centro Escolar University will resonate as faculty members teach students who then share what they have learned with their families and communities. The knowledge I shared in a poster presentation entitled “Promoting a Culture on Disaster Preparedness” during the 2014 Philippine Nurses Association Annual Convention will reach communities across the Philippines. I may not be able to go to all communities, but participants will be able to take the information home. There is a saying: “much is given to you, much will be expected from you.” I have been enriched by my experience and at this point in my life, what is important to me is to give back to the community. If I can’t give back in terms of money, I will give back in terms of service in order to save lives and keep the economy going in times of disaster and recovery. After all, that is what life is all about: giving back and serving others.

Read more about the DRI Foundation’s work in the Philipines and elsewhere in our Inaugural Annual Review.