Bruin Angel: A volunteer without borders
Paul Tenorio was nominated by his peers for recognition as one of UCLA Today's 2010 Bruin Angels.
Paul Tenorio takes time from building latrines in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to meet local children.
Paul Tenorio remembers clearly when he became an addict to volunteerism.
“I was first introduced to mission trips through a Catholic church," recalled Tenorio, a physical therapist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. "The more I learned about it through personal accounts and photographs, the more interested I became."
That particular church, located in New Jersey, organized yearly mission trips to the Philippines, and it was there that Tenorio traveled for his first service mission. That first trip to the Philippines was an eye-opening experience that changed the way he thinks about his life and the lives of those in impoverished countries. Since then, he has gone back to the Philippines and most recently completed a mission in the Dominican Republic, in addition to doing volunteer work locally with the Missionary Brothers of Charity and the Union Rescue Mission downtown.
“I know it sounds like a cliché," said Tenorio, who is looking forward to taking a mission trip to Haiti next year. "But I never forgot that good feeling inside, knowing that you have changed someone's life forever. It has somewhat become an addiction to be able to give back."
Tenorio worked with a patient in Cebu in the Philippines who had problems walking because of recent hip surgery.
In being of service to others, Tenorio utilizes skills he employs every day as a physical therapist and liaison for geriatrics and solid oncology. While in the Philippines, for example, he tended to back and shoulder injuries, distributed physician-ordered medications and took vital signs and medical histories. The task was formidable. In the end, Tenorio and his fellow volunteers aided more than 6,000 people in a mere four days.
Last July, Tenorio's mission to the Dominican Republic focused on other needs. "Our group was able to build approximately 25 latrines in four days!"
Tenorio recommends that individuals interested in joining a mission should do background research in the area where they intend to travel — local history, health concerns, the political climate — and check the Centers for Disease Control’s website
to make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations. But more importantly, he advised, make sure to bring a friend.
"Sharing the experience with a group makes it more memorable because the group becomes a big family, partaking in the same experiences and supporting one another throughout the trip," Tenorio said enthusiastically. "Seeing how hard everyone around me was working encouraged me to work just as hard."
A quote by the late Margaret Mead sums up the benefits of volunteerism for him: "
Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have."
Meet three other Bruin Angels: