Founded in 1965 by the late Senator Cecilia Cruz Bamba, the Guam Memorial Hospital Volunteers Association (GMHVA) is a nonprofit organization of dedicated people, who, through their gift of time, talent, and personal interest, supplement the professional hospital staff in caring for the comfort and welfare of the patients, personnel, and visitors to the hospital.
Since its inception, the GMH Volunteers Association has provided Guam Memorial Hospital, Guam’s only public hospital, with continuous support services as well as millions of dollars worth of medical equipment, hospital furnishings and assistance.
In turn, GMHVA’s work is largely supported through the generosity from Guam’s businesses, civic organizations, government leaders, the medical community, as well as friends and families of the volunteers. Their contributions greatly help GMHVA raise funds to purchase much needed medical equipment and furnishings, and provide a variety of services for the hospital.
According to longtime volunteer, Margaret Jones, Cecilia Bamba organized the GMHVA among a group of her friends. They met and established their bylaws, volunteer hours, and even their pink pinafore uniforms, modeled after the Academy of Our Lady of Guam uniforms. Bamba’s son, former Senator George Bamba, Jr., recalled that it was his mother’s desire to give back to the community that compelled her to found the organization. Believing the women of Guam were the most sensitive to the needs of the community, Cecilia Bamba brought women together to address the various needs of the hospital and its patients.
Their work brought them close to the people who came to the hospital for healing. Volunteers escorted mobile patients to their rooms, provided reassurance and words of comfort, and engaged with patients and their families to lift their spirits in often difficult circumstances. Over the years, the association grew, and volunteers donated countless hours in various projects of the GMHVA and organizing its signature events aimed at raising funds and inspiring the community to help the hospital.
The Annual Charity Ball is the highlight of GMHVA’s yearly fundraising events. The first ball was held in 1965 at the Guam Recreation Center, which was located in Anigua. According to Jones, the theme for the ball was “My Fair Lady,” and everyone had to dress in black and white. Since then, each ball has had a different theme and fundraising goal, usually to raise money for equipment or bring awareness of the importance for the hospital to have the latest technology available to its doctors and patients.
Other fundraising projects, such as the Thanksgiving Raffle, bake sales, holiday home tours, golf tournaments and Christmas bazaars help generate funds for GMHVA’s endeavors. The hospital Gift Shop (which was founded in 1971) and Gift Cart, wholly managed and operated by volunteers, provide a significant ongoing source of funds for hospital equipment needs. Additionally, the Healing Tree is an ongoing project of the GMHVA that began in 2002 to inspire the community to help the hospital. The “tree” is a display at the hospital with gold colored “leaves” that are engraved with the names of businesses, organizations and other generous donors to the hospital.
From 2010 to 2014, the hospital received more than $1 million worth of equipment and services through the fundraising work of the volunteers. Through their efforts, GMHVA contributed toward the purchase of patient beds, specialized ICU patient beds, operating room sterilization equipment, non-invasive ventilators, respirators, an ultrasound unit, life pack monitor/defibrillator sets, bariatric beds, transport vehicles, sleeper chairs, television sets, and EKG/EDG equipment. GMHVA also has helped find funds to send nurses for certification training or to help pay off hospital invoices.
In addition to managing and operating the Gift Shop, GMHVA members assist in other areas, such as taking baby photos, feeding newborns, providing escort-errand services for patients and visitors, visiting and reading to patients, interpreter and translation services, providing clerical assistance to hospital units, helping visitors at the information desk, and holiday caroling and gift-giving.
Founded to provide a bridge between the hospital and the island community, the association has grown in membership. As of 2017 there are more than 150 committed volunteers of diverse backgrounds and skills, assisting and donating their personal time to Guam Memorial Hospital to provide the best possible health care for the community of Guam.
Now donning their signature pink vests, the volunteers continue to build upon the legacy through their work that was begun by Cecilia Bamba and the Founding Members. With their “prescription of love” they bring comfort to thousands of hospital patients and their families. What began 52 years ago as a helping hand for doctors and nurses has now become the heart of the Guam Memorial Hospital community.