HANOVER, Pa. (AP) — From Hanover to the Philippines, Jess Socrates has devoted his life to helping others.
Socrates, who was born and raised in the Philippines, has worked as a pathologist at Hanover Hospital for 34 years. When he is not in the hospital's laboratory, he is often raising money to build wells, perform surgeries and help victims of natural disasters in the Philippines.
"I refer to myself as a professional beggar," he said with a smile.
Socrates first became interested in volunteer work as a member of the Phi Kappa Mu medical fraternity at the University of the Philippines. Through this organization, Socrates volunteered to help the needy and developed bonds within the fraternity that would help him lead his own volunteer initiatives later in life.
In 1976, he immigrated to the United States to complete his four-year pathology residency at York Hospital. From there, he came to Hanover Hospital, where he has worked ever since.
"Dr. and Mrs. (Luz Villareal) Socrates are a shining example that it is more blessed to give than to receive," said James Wissler, president and CEO of Hanover Hospital. "They are generous with their time, talent and treasure for those less fortunate in the Philippines and other parts of the world."
While Socrates advanced his career in the United States, he never forgot his fraternity brothers in the Philippines. With the advent of the Internet, he was able to reconnect with them and eventually help establish Phi Kappa Mu International, Inc., a nonprofit organization through which they could channel funds for their volunteer work.
Socrates has filled a number of roles on the organization's board over the past decade, from president to board member. Currently, he serves as treasurer. No matter in what capacity he serves, however, he said his focus is always the same: helping people in the Philippines.
Through Phi Kappa Mu's Operating Room Assistance Program, Socrates has helped raise money and coordinate resources to perform surgeries for children in the Philippines. These surgeries range from correction of heart defects to cleft palate repairs.
"The most exciting part for me is repairing congenital heart defects," he said, noting the fraternity partners with a pediatric cardiologist in the Philippines. "When you do that, you really change the life of that child because instead of the child getting into cardiac failure, having repeated respiratory infections, not going to school because of getting sick and, really, dying early, they live a normal life."
Socrates also helps the fraternity with a number of other projects, ranging from coordinating wheelchair donations to building homes for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, a powerful tropical cyclone that devastated portions of the Philippines in November.
With each project, the money raised goes directly to helping people in need, Socrates said. The organization has no paid staff or overhead costs.
In addition to his work with the fraternity, Socrates also volunteers time to the Foundation for Aid to the Philippines, where he helps find livelihood opportunities for people in need. He also works with the Hanover Rotary Club, through which he procured grants to build wells in six Filipino communities.
Despite the time Socrates donates to these causes, he said many other people are also to thank for the lives these organizations have touched throughout the Philippines.
"It's not just me," he said. "I cannot claim credit for any of the things that we do."
Information from: The Evening Sun, http://www.eveningsun.com