Community Health Volunteer Profile: Michael Andrew Ruiz

As the eldest in his family, Michael Andrew Ruiz grew up with a strong sense of responsibility.

Aklan, September 2015. Michael conducts a CBHFA lecture on first aid for the residents of Brgy. Bulabud. Photo by Regina Kandler / IFRC

He helped his mother raise his two younger siblings in their hometown of Numancia in Aklan, since his father’s work is based in Manila and is away for months at a time.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise to the family when Michael took up Nursing in college. After getting his Nursing license, he immediately started volunteering for the Red Cross blood bank.

After only working for a few days as a Red Cross volunteer, he was asked to join the livelihood team to help in post-Haiyan recovery programs in his province of Aklan in Western Visayas.

His hometown was one of the areas that were affected  by and although his family’s house was not heavily damaged, their ancestral house was completely destroyed by the typhoon.

Michael’s dedication and love for his work got him promoted as the team leader for the livelihood team, but his skills were quickly put to the test after a WATSAN Technical Project Assistant asked him to help monitor the construction of septic tanks for a Red Cross core shelter project in Aklan.

He worked for three days a week for the WATSAN team and two days a week for the health team, both as their volunteer team leader. Although he has managed to successfully juggle his two responsibilities, he  initially had a hard time dealing with all the Red Cross internal documentation and regulations.

Michael helps take initial blood pressure measurements for Zumba class participants before their classes. After a few months, Michael and his team will come back to check on the residents to see if the zumba classes helped lower their blood pressures. Photo by Regina Kandler / IFRC

“It was also challenging to work with people from different communities, cultures and backgrounds,” says Michael.  “The hardest thing was handling the proper accounting and liquidation of the projects.”

At the moment, Michael is the volunteer team leader for Health and acting Technical Project Assistant for the Red Cross chapter in Aklan. He’s handling two International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) health programmes, and frequently travels between the municipalities where the projects are located. The frequent travel to and from the different communities in Aklan can be tough at times, but not for Michael.

“I really enjoy going with the community health volunteers to their health visits in far flung areas. I especially like hiking and being in the communities where everything is green,” says Michael.

Michael is the only one from the IFRC who has managed to attend the community-based health and first aid (CBHFA) training last November in Cebu, so his inputs are integral and are of great value to the Health team in Aklan.

“I think it’s important that I be in close contact with the community health volunteers for their weekly planning and implementation of their work plan,” adds Michael. “It’s vital that I understand people’s ideas and cultural settings if I am to help them get a different view on things and instil behaviour change.”

Michael’s enthusiasm in his volunteer work has rubbed off on his family. His mother is now a 143 volunteer as a Barangay Health Worker (BHW), coordinating and working together with PRC.

“Thanks to the Red Cross,  I have garnered experiences in many different sectors,” says Michael. “I am happy to go to work every morning and help the different communities in my province lead better lives through our CBHFA programmes.”

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