Disaster survivor springs to action

Written by: Stephen Harrison

When Grace Asagra Stanley, a community nursing specialist, heard about a reception center set up at John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy, she didn’t hesitate to volunteer. Stanley runs a non-profit organization called The Web of Compassion (www.webofcompassion.org) which aims to raise money to help the victims of natural disasters.

Dealing with natural disasters is second nature for Stanley, who grew up in Legazpi City on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Legazpi City sits near the base of Mayon Mountain, an active volcano, and faces typhoons on a regular basis during the rainy season.

“Every Typhoon, every storm passes by my region,” Stanley told The VOICE. Her experiences growing up in Legazpi City have led to a lifetime of volunteer work.

When Grace was a teenager, a particularly strong typhoon flooded the whole city. With no food in the house, she and her three sisters waded through waist-high water for several miles to reach their parents’ restaurant. “That was one of the craziest things we ever did… it was scary,” she said.

The restaurant was flooded as well, and they ended up having to sleep on top of tables for several days until the flood waters receded.

“Growing up in that situation… you learn not to focus on yourself all the time and just if you’re alive you think how can I help others. That becomes second hand nature, so when I heard Princeton has a shelter I thought let me check it out,” said Stanley. “It becomes part of your way of living and you’re able to cope with it.”

Hurricane Sandy brought some aspects of life in Legazpi City to mind for Stanley, saying “If I do this volunteering it reminds me of my country… because anything good you do, wherever you are it helps somewhere else too.”

Stanley credits her time in the Philippines with giving her the mindset she needs to be most effective during disasters. “One thing I learned is that you become resourceful in every way so you don’t panic as a volunteer, you always keep your mind in a calm.”

Stanley is working on her masters in health, arts and sciences from Goddard College. She was trying to complete and submit her thesis when Hurricane Sandy hit. “There are certain dates that we have to submit, and that date kind of fell on [Hurricane] Sandy” says Stanley.

In need of internet access, she discovered the Princeton Public Library was congested with so many people also looking for internet access. Stanley decided to wait until after the library closed saying “I decided to stay right outside the library where I could still have the wifi… evening at the library is a better chance to be on the wifi because during the daytime there was a lot of people.” She got her thesis submitted on time.

A holistic nurse by profession in the Philippines, Stanley continued her nursing career when she came to the United States at thirty years of age. She worked as a critical care nurse in a hospital and is now exploring entrepreneurship as a health coach using nutrition and lifestyle medicine as preventative, curative and rehabilitative approaches.

Grace Stanley also hosts a radio program that she livestreams to her native Philippines every Sunday called “Nature’s Farmacy.” Stanley’s goal for “Nature’s Farmacy” is to teach people holistic methods of medicine such as herbal remedies.

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