Silliman University

Silliman University Alumni Association

Of the National Capital Region - Northern Virginia Alumni Chapter

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Silliman University Alimni Association is a non Profet organization duly registered and incorporated in the District of Colunmbia.  All Sillimanians are eligible to register as members of the Association.  We encourage everybody who would be a member to complete the registeration Silliman University Alimni Association Form.  The annual membership due for an individual is $10.00 and $20.00 for the family of registrants living in the same household.

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Villanuevas join Gulf relief effort
‘Biloxi Boomerang' will make them return to Mississippi someday

By Cindy Karelis, Times-News Staff Writer
Monday, January 23, 2006 10:02 AM EST

(From left) Sonya Morgan, Kathy Villanueva, Dr. Romulo Villanueva, Mary Ellis, Beth Lohnas and Shelly Minnick of Villanueva's office staff look through a scrapbook detailing the Villanueva family's recent trip to aid relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. (Photo credit: John A. Bone/Times-News)
CUMBERLAND - There's little doubt in Kathy Villanueva's mind - now that her family has spent some time in Mississippi, the “Biloxi boomerang” will see to it that they return. That's the name given by a fellow relief worker to the post-Katrina volunteer from Cumberland who vows that they will return again someday.

Kathy's husband, Romulo, a local physician also known as Jun, suggested the idea to his family one day when the unsuspecting clan was gathered together in December just before the holidays.

“Why don't we make a little change this year?” Jun asked his wife and three grown sons in reference to the family's annual holiday skiing trip. His idea of change involved a charitable contribution, but not one in the form of money or supplies alone.

The Villanueva family of Bishop Walsh Road drove 17 hours south instead, arriving at the Bethel Lutheran Church in Biloxi in time to be part of the Lutheran Disaster Reponse team's Christmas effort.

As part of an outpouring of help from all over the United States, the family joined hundreds living in tents in the volunteer village known as Camp Biloxi.
One of the Villanuevas' first duties was to help construct bunk beds for the volunteers, a job taken on happily by sons Ray and Ryan, both college students doing post-graduate and undergraduate work, respectively.

Their affiliation with Scouting and the local mission program NAILS, where they learned to make home repairs for the needy, prepared them for the task, their father said. The young men also helped unload hundreds of donated mattresses from delivery trucks along with performing badly needed roof repairs.

While Kathy volunteered to do cleaning, cooking, sorting in the distribution center and even roofing, her husband and their eldest son, Rex, a biomedical sciences student, treated approximately 30 patients a day for minor injuries and illnesses in two different medical clinics.

“I applied for my temporary license before I left - and I was very surprised when I got it the next night,” Jun said of the online process that moved rapidly.

Assistant site manager for Lutheran Disaster Response Dorothy Fox described the “good Samaritan” licensing done in Jackson that enables medical personnel to respond quickly to the relief effort.
The team that the Villanueva family joined celebrates the successful installation of a roof. (Photo courtesy of Villanueva family)
“We have to have these people,” Fox said of the physicians, nurses, technicians and other professionals needed to administer medical services to residents still coping with limited facilities.

“The Villanuevas were just a blessing because we are trying to get out clinics on task,” Fox added.

Sheltering as many as 150 to 200 volunteers on a weekly basis, the disaster response unit sent work crews out every day based on the number of requests received from the community.

“Our requests come from folks who didn't leave at all, those who came back right away and those who are just now returning,” Fox said of the ongoing attempts to provide post-hurricane recovery.

Fox, a Biloxi resident, left the stricken area for five weeks after she evacuated with others in late August. Her husband's congenital heart failure was an issue with what she called “poor water and air quality,” a situation aggravated by “so much stuck in the air from demolition and construction.”

Rounds made Christmas Eve to distribute donated gifts to local residents who had lost everything made the deepest impression on Kathy. Jun was touched by the holiday decorations from tinsel to Santa figurines that still donned the yards of destroyed homes.

“Just to see the smile on their faces upon seeing us bringing gifts made us feel that our presence made a difference,” Kathy said. “It just goes to show that no matter how little help we could give can make a difference in someone's life.”

Lifelong friends were made with the Forbes family from Illinois and the Henry family from Wisconsin, others who, like the Villanuevas, “answered a call” that couldn't be ignored.

“My parents are missionaries at a small clinic in the Philippines,” Jun said of the upbringing that set an example of volunteerism, leading the doctor to offer non gratis his clinical and surgical skills every few years in his native Philippines.

Others interested in volunteering in the recovery effort that Fox said will continue for “several years” can contact her at (228) 267-0008. Volunteers must bring a pillow, towels, sleeping bag and money to contribute toward their own daily food consumption.

“It's going to take a while for us to get healed,” she said.

Cindy Karelis can be reached at