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Lennel Joy Alvarez
Lennel Joy Alvarez

A Filipino-speaking University of Hawaiʻi Maui College student is helping to lead the way for a vaccination clinic that will be held at Binhi At Ani, the Filipino Community Center in Kahului, Maui, on Saturday, May 1, 8 a.m.–12 p.m. The vaccination rate in Maui’s Filipino community is low, and this is part of an effort to change that. There will be several nurses and nursing students who are fluent in Filipino dialects.

The clinic (utilizing the Moderna vaccine) at 780 Onehee Avenue is open to the public, and sign-ups are highly recommended. For more information, call Lennel Joy Alvarez at (808) 283-8731 or Fely Sales at (808) 264-3588.

Alvarez answers the call

When the Wailea Resorts needed a fluent Filipino speaker with medical knowledge to explain the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination sign-up process to its landscapers, they contacted the UH Maui College Nursing Program. First-year nursing student Alvarez and her classmate Selwyne Matillano answered the call.

Lennel Joy Alvarez

“We found that these folks had questions about what was being offered, didn’t know how to sign up, were having online difficulties and, frankly, were hearing a lot of misinformation,” Alvarez said.

She decided she wanted to set up a vaccination clinic for the Filipino community somewhere that would be familiar and comfortable, and enlisted support from the college’s nursing program faculty and students, the Campus Health Center and the State Department of Health (DOH). On May 1, she will see the fruit of her efforts.

“Our nursing faculty, nursing students and graduates stepped up to be part of our community response to the pandemic since the very beginning,” said UH Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana. “As we strive to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, they continue to do so. Lennel’s initiative to organize her own COVID vaccination clinic is a most impressive example.”

Outreach to Filipino community

“This second outreach to the Filipino community by our Filipina faculty and students now has the nursing program working collaboratively with DOH and the UH Maui College Campus Health Center,” said Anne Scharnhorst, chair of UH Maui College Allied Health Program. “It’s a great experience for the students to see what public health efforts require. What a wonderful impact it is having on our students and what a wonderful impact the nursing students are having in the community! It is inspiring us to do even more.”

Alvarez has wanted to be a nurse since she was seven years old and found herself “nursing” her mother and younger brother through an illness.

“That’s when I knew my calling was in the medical field,” she said.

In high school, she became interested in business. When she was accepted into the nursing program, she had already completed two years of prerequisites. So she earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts and then went straight into the nursing program. She plans to continue on to become a nurse practitioner.

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