Mylene Supan: Nurturing the Passion for Helping Others
You can say that Mylene Supan is your resident superwoman. She has built a career on caring for others in the medical field as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Beyond that, her kindness extends to the various organizations she supports. As a Board Member of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association, President and Co-Founder of the Houston Alliance of Volunteers in Medicine Mission Group, Founding Board Member of the Philippine Kalayaan Houston, Vice President for the Caring for the Community, Inc., member (and former president) of the Filipino Young Professionals of Houston, and as an advocate of Gawad Kalinga (GK) USA.
One has to wonder: how can one woman with her own life to live be able to handle all of these responsibilities at once? “First, you have to love what you do,” Mylene shares during her Kwentong GK interview. “You have to have that passion to help other people. Second, you have to have a good support system… If you want to help, you will find time.”
Through the years, Mylene has gained trust and recognition from her peers for her unparalleled efforts in helping to better Filipino communities as well as preserve the culture that makes us Filipino. She owes it all on getting an early start to volunteering, which opened her eyes – and heart – to the plight of the less fortunate.
Experiencing Joy in Helping Others
As she was studying in a Catholic all-girls school in the Philippines, Mylene learned at a young age that we are called to help others who do not have the same blessings that we have been given. She started participating in community outreach programs in high school and continued to do so during her college years.
An experience that stuck with her was from a mission to help those affected by the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991. Along with two other friends from the university, she provided much needed assistance while only having the barest of necessities. There were no hotels to retire to after a long day’s work – they had to make do with the church’s roof above their heads and pews to sleep on.
This did not deter Mylene at all, as this event only validates that the joy one can get from helping others is worth the effort. “Volunteering and helping others, if you start early on as a youth, you’ll find a different kind of joy in helping others. When you grow up, you’ll seek that.”
And seek she did. While her place of residence changed, she looked for opportunities to continue giving back in any way she can, and she found them in American soil.
Giving Some and Receiving More
It was Haiyan – one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever to hit the world – that had Mylene doubling down on her efforts to be more involved in the Filipino community in the U.S. After seeing the devastation that the calamity brought upon Tacloban, Mylene was introduced to a number of Filipino organizations in her area.
Of these, she was struck the most by the Filipino Young Professionals of Houston. Comprising mostly of second- and third-generation Filipino-Americans, Mylene loved the energy that the organization radiates. She felt inspired after witnessing their passion to help their fellow Filipinos even though they cannot speak their native language.
“With me wanting to help and be more involved, I actually got a lot more back,” said Mylene. “I grew in a lot of things. I got exposed to technology, I widened the scope of my network, I met new people, and fostered friendships.”
Her positive experience coupled with an innate desire to be of service made Mylene sign up, initially as the organizations’ Cultural Chair, before being elected as Vice President and, eventually, assuming the role of President.
Crossing Paths with Gawad Kalinga
When Mylene got an invitation to visit a GK village in the Philippines, she did not know what to expect. She was taken by surprise when she saw how GK transformed the slums into a decent place to live. “It’s not just providing a house,” shared Mylene. “It’s providing community support for [people] to have a better life.”
True enough, GK’s benevolence does not end with the creation of well-built houses. The organization rolls out programs whose impacts will last a lifetime. “GK teaches [residents] how to have businesses, make money, have better education… that’s a gift that can benefit them for their entire life. They really have a chance of overcoming poverty,” added Mylene.
A Rolling Fundraiser
Visiting the GK village was such a moving experience for Mylene and the other volunteers, that they hatched a plan just moments after leaving the vicinity.
“We calculated that it only takes $1,500 to provide a family a home to restore their dignity,” Mylene recalled. Going by that logic, they realized that if all 30 volunteers commit to donate consistently within a year, they would be able to get one more homeless family under a sturdy roof. However, the volunteers did not really want to wait that long.
There was an outpouring of love within that tour bus, on that fateful day. Money came from all sides, with one volunteer even giving money that was hidden in his shoe. Everything happened so fast that in just half an hour, they were able to raise enough money to give two families the promise of a shelter.
Being able to selflessly give the way Mylene and her fellow volunteers did is not seen as a privilege. For Mylene, the act of giving is something anyone can do, regardless of their socio-economic status. “You don’t have to be rich to give. You have to just want to give. There is a different kind of joy knowing that you’ve helped somebody.”
Also, helping doesn’t have to be done solo. It takes a village, so doing it with others who share the same principles can make things easier. “If one person would have ten friends to commit to donate one dollar for one year, you can provide a home for one family,” said Mylene.
“My dream is for our countrymen, for our country, to be not so poor. We’ve been a third country for a long time,” answered Mylene, when asked what her hopes are for her people as a Filipino-American. “Filipinos are hard workers, we’re survivors. We just need a chance to better ourselves.”
For better or worse, Filipinos have been known to leave the country to look for better opportunities in other parts of the globe. Without discrediting the valiant efforts of Overseas Filipino Workers, Mylene hopes that this won’t always be the case. “My dream is that when we go out of the country, people can afford to go wherever they want, when they want without needing a visa.”
Ultimately, her goal is eradicating poverty. “The poverty level in the Philippines shouldn’t be where it is right now. Our people should be able to afford good education, know that they’ll have food on the table and their health will be taken care of, and that they will not die because they cannot afford to pay their medical bills,” said Mylene. With her passion for helping others, this is not a lost cause – especially with a group of like-minded individuals and organizations backing her up.
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