Garbage and rubble still line the streets, remnants of a catastrophic earthquake that occurred more than five years ago, signs there is still much work to be done. Bryan Manalo ’11 sees “poverty everywhere” as he works alongside the United Nations, World Vision, and the United States Navy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He wonders where to start — what do the Haitian people really need?
Education is the key, according to Liah, a French/creole interpreter who was part of the working group during Bryan’s 2015 mission trip to Haiti. He expected to hear “donations,” of course, but the desire for education resonated with him.
“No matter how many donations they receive, or how many people reach out, only with proper education will they have a better future,” Bryan says. “People need to be educated in order to have a better foundation.”
The conversation reminded Bryan of a saying in his native Philippines — “You can take away all the riches of the world, but education is something you cannot take away from me.” The idea stayed with Bryan after his biological parents passed away and he moved with his adoptive parents to Chicago in 2004. He began his pursuit of a career in health care with community college initially, then transferred to Valpo in fall 2008 as a nursing major.
It was here at Valpo where Bryan discovered his passion for giving back to the community. He volunteered with students for the Valparaiso University Day of Caring and Relay for Life, as well as with the Boys and Girls Club of Porter County, and developed leadership skills through various organizations including the Student Nurse Association and Asian American Association.
These experiences prepared Bryan for his dream career in health care, and he now works at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in the pediatric intensive care unit. He’s also pursuing an MBA and feels called to work in global health care, to work with marginalized populations.
Recognizing his skills, passion, and purpose, Bryan’s colleague recommended he look into Operation Smile. This led to his first mission trip to the Philippines, where he worked with a team providing free surgery to children with cleft lips and palates. He says he enjoyed giving back to his fellow Filipinos, particularly being able to help children, something he does every day at Lurie’s.
“Working with children in the ICU is really interesting — you see the sickest of the sick,” Bryan says. “You have to have a strong heart and a real passion to help sick children. At first it’s a little bit daunting, because their lives are basically in your hands. You really have to be knowledgeable and have a good foundation, which I believe Valpo gave me.”
Bryan says the College of Nursing and Health Professions honed his critical-thinking skills and the education and clinical experience he received helped him become “a good nurse and overall well-rounded individual.” He stays connected to the College, advising faculty members of internship and career opportunities for students and recent graduates, and updating Dean Janet Brown on his life and career. They traveled to Thailand together as part of a spring break trip, and since Bryan graduated Dean Brown has become his mentor, someone he can turn to for career advice and encouragement.
“Bryan is a true example of how students grow personally and professionally at Valpo,” Dean Brown says. “We are committed to offering experiences both inside and outside the classroom that develop students to excel the way Bryan has.”
Now, looking back to his trip to Haiti, Bryan remembers feelings of both despair and hope.
“The people of Haiti are very optimistic,” he says. “You’re surrounded by total craziness, but when you actually talk to the people, you get inspired. It’s very powerful.”
The experience strengthened his ambition to realize his purpose in global health care. He knows his time spent at Valpo helped set him on this path, and now he’s able to use his gifts to benefit children around the world. His trip to Thailand in particular was an important part of his Valpo experience, Bryan says, and he believes any student who has the opportunity to study or travel abroad should do so.
“Traveling abroad opens your mind and makes you a better person, because you get to know other cultures and languages,” he says. “It’s powerful. It’s an experience that you will never forget.
“It’s amazing, and Valpo gave that to me. I will forever be indebted to all the experiences I gained from Valpo.”