Remote islands are often known for clear blue water, friendly communities, and pristine beaches. They are vacation destinations for those who want to slow down, unplug, and enjoy life. This lifestyle appealed to Isla Medical Foundation’s Founding Director, Melissa Oliver, as she planned a vacation to a remote island in the Philippines, called Siargao Island. At the time, Siargao was known as a surfer’s paradise.
There was one cell tower that hardly worked, so Wi-Fi was spotty and people communicated by visiting each other’s homes. There was nothing on Google Maps, so directions were given using natural landmarks. Because it was off the beaten path, the island had limited resources and medical care. This issue became more apparent with each trip Mel took. As she spent more time on the island, locals began to share stories of friends and family who were unable to receive the kind of medical care available on larger islands and the mainland. People suffered from preventable illnesses as clinics regularly ran low on things such as supplies, updated medical equipment, and adequately trained personnel.
Mel decided to use her experience in world health and medical missions to give back to the island she loved so much. In 2018, co-founders Mike Cowan and Ashley Humston visited Siargao with Mel and instantly fell in love with the people and the island. Together, the three formed Isla Medical Foundation in order to provide medical support, supplies, and education to under-served island communities, beginning with Siargao Island. Isla Medical Foundation was not formed to establish new healthcare systems, but to aid existing systems in their efforts towards self-sustainability.