Austin Nurse Headed to the Philippines Part of National Nurses' Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda Relief Effort

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 1/11/2014, 5:25 p.m.
While many are settling back into regular routines after the holiday break, David Abeles an RN at Arise Medical Center ...
RNRN volunteers (L-R) Betty Sparks, Paolo Montenegro and Anna Rathbun attend patients in late December and Nurse Practitioner Betty Woods attends a patient in Iloilo

While many are settling back into regular routines after the holiday break, David Abeles an RN at Arise Medical Center in Austin, Texas, is starting the new year by traveling to the Philippines where he will provide medical support for those who continue to be affected by the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.

Abeles will join the fifth team of RN volunteers, part of the National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network, that departs on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, to Roxas City on the northern end of the island of Panay, which was in the direct path of the storm. The super typhoon killed over six thousand people, left almost two thousand missing and 4 million either homeless or with damaged homes.

The team includes RNs from New York, Minnesota, Texas, and California. They are among the 3,000 RNs from all 50 states and 19 nations who volunteered in the days after the deadly storm to assist with the relief project for Haiyan/Yolanda.

"Probably like most RN's who apply to go, I feel compelled in my heart and gut to take care of people in a disaster area as soon as possible. It's part of our DNA," said Abeles. "I went into nursing because my parents were Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe and from their experience a fire was born in me to help the underserved sectors of society. When I was an adult I felt nursing would most closely match this desire and it definitely has." Abeles, has been an RN for eleven years and is the proud father of a sixteen-year-old daughter, Shalui.

"I expect the work there to be very fulfilling to me as a human and RN," said Abeles. "There's nothing more special and moving for me than people being moved to act to help one another on basis of human solidarity rather than financial benefit. The world would be a better place if it was based on mutual aid rather than profit."

Tomorrow morning Abeles will meet with the Austin Metro Committee of the NNOC (National Nurses Organizing Committee) to provide an overview of RNRN's relief effort in the Philippines.

"Now that the world is no longer focused on the devastation in the Philippines, it is even more important that we continue to lend our support," said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of RNRN. "We are working closely with our sister organization in the Philippines, the Alliance of Health Workers, to determine the most effective ways that we can be of assistance." The Alliance of Health Workers and National Nurses United are both members of Global Nurses United, an international network of nurses' organizations established last summer.

Joining Abeles will be volunteer, Ireneo Jore, an RN at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, and originally from Roxas City, where he practiced as a family physician. “I am glad to be part of this opportunity to help the victims of this horrific calamity in my own home town” said Jore, who now lives in Manhattan. Jore has 10 siblings, five of whom live in Roxas City and lost their homes in the disaster.

Ireneo, Abeles and the others departing this week will follow in the footsteps of the RNRN volunteers who have been providing basic medical care at rotating mobile clinics, in a ruined chapel, school, gym and other temporary settings as well as at a city health clinic in and around Roxas, and other sites in the Philippines.

The RNRN volunteers have worked in conjunction with local public health officials, physicians, a church and other community supporters, providing wound care, giving tetanus and other shots, offering critical stress debriefings, and other basic care.

National Nurses United invites the public to contribute to the effort at

RNRN, a project of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of RNs, was formed in 2004 in the aftermath of the South Asia tsunami in 2004, when the need for nurses was not being met by traditional disaster relief organizations. Since that time RNRN has send hundreds of direct-care nurse volunteers to assist following Hurricane Katrina, the massive earthquake in Haiti, and Hurricane Sandy.