After an 11-hour flight from Houston to Taiwan, then spending the night in Manilla and taking an hour bus ride to Tabuk in the Philippines’ Kalinga province, Catherine Shepard finally reached the Kalinga Provincial Hospital.
Shepard, who volunteers with the Houston Alliance of Volunteers in Medicine, made the
two-day journey to assist with medical outreach to 800 patients in February.
“Giving back is always something that I wanted to do,” said Shepard, a senior community liaison for the Health Department’s Diabetes Awareness and Wellness Network. “I think we are so fortunate.”
Her passion for volunteering earned her a Bravo award this past May. The award is given to city employees who are making an impact through volunteerism.
“The idea of helping the community was something that was instilled in me in school,” said Shepard who attended Catholic school. “To do things for the less fortunate.”
“She is the kind of staff that you wish you could duplicate 100 times,” said LaQuisha Umemba, chief nurse for HHD’s office of chronic disease health education and wellness.
Shepard, who works to create relationships with community and health care providers, enjoys telling the community about the DAWN program’s free diabetes services.
“Because of Catherine and what she has been able to do in her position with the city, the DAWN center has seen an almost 300 percent increase in referrals in the last two years,” Umemba said.
“It’s definitely a rewarding experience to go out there and not only inform health care providers about the program that’s available, but create that partnership so they can refer individuals to us,” Shepard said.
Shepard also gives back through the Filipino Young Professionals of Houston, a nonprofit organization. She promotes her Filipino culture, helps local youth and organizes volunteer efforts for underserved communities.
Since joining FYP 10 years ago, she has served as a cultural ambassador, president, secretary, dragonboat liaison, youth outreach director and community outreach director.
Shepard also helps to organize an annual career day for local youth.
“The event exposes students to a variety of professions from different fields,” she said. “We talk about what we do and give kids tips to help them achieve their goals.”
As community outreach director, she organizes quarterly volunteer events at the Houston Food Bank, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. She also participates in community clean-ups, fundraisers and overseas relief efforts.
“It’s about young professionals being able to network with each other, do community work and learn about their Filipino culture,” said Shepard of FYP’s goals.
Shepard encourages everyone to give back if they can.
“There’s a lot of different ways you can volunteer,” she said. “Once you get in the habit of giving back, definitely that will stick with you.”