In 1964, a young nurse left her job in San Francisco to become one of PCI’s first volunteers, serving in medical clinic in Vietnam with PCI founder, Dr. Jim Turpin. Bertha Sanchez went on to serve not only in Vietnam, but in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Guatemala, Mexico, and in the U.S. working in Appalachia and with the Navajo.
When asked about the dangers of serving in places like Vietnam, Bertha said, “I don’t think in terms of danger, but in terms of need.” That’s just who Bertha was, always caring more for others than for herself or her own safety.
Sadly, Bertha passed away on Friday, October 8. But today we celebrate her life, and all that she accomplished with PCI and throughout her remarkable life.
Upon hearing the news, Dr. Turpin wrote the following tribute:
“She came to San Francisco from her home in San Mateo in October 1961 . She had read a brief news story in Chinatown’s English newspaper. It mentioned a trip to the Bay area by a young Coronado, California physician planning to move his family to Hong Kong to work medically among the colony’s tens of thousands of refugees. It seemed implausible. But as a school nurse, and as a Chinese-Filipino, she was curious. She liked what she heard in the sketchy ill-funded funky presentation. She made immediate plans to become involved.
Two thousand dollars worth of “Green Stamps” later, mostly from her high school students, Bertha had a round trip ticket to Kowloon, Hong Kong. She was of immediate professional help, speaking Cantonese, showing phenomenal nursing skills, and expressed an immediate ability to relate to the most remote, most needful. She healed.
That experience turned out to be the first chapter for her in an exciting “life book”, as she committed the greater part of her career to this growing concern. Bertha worked with PCI in most every country we were in, helping to establish several. Interesting thing is that in most every program they easily accepted her as one of their own – Navajo, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mexico and Guatemala.
There was something about her that hangs in my head and heart – and always will. It might be something spiritual, for it had a force and impact to it, extended freely by her, with no need to be deserved or dissected. PCI will do very well, thank you, for it is established in significant part on the phenomenal DNA of this one beautiful human being. Would that the world – and PCI – have a plethora of such. They just do not come along very often.”