Philmar Mendoza Kabua is no stranger to hard work. Her background includes caring for her younger siblings, serving on mission trips to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), leading the repatriation effort for Marshallese citizens stranded away from home, and helping in the COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts in Hawaii.
Growing up in the RMI and relocating to Hawaii when she was 12, Mendoza Kabua took on leadership roles from a young age. When she moved to Chicago at the age of 18, she brought two siblings, who were in third and fourth grade at the time. She took on the responsibilities of caring for them, all on her own, while working and pursuing her bachelor’s in nursing (BSN).
Soon after graduating, Mendoza Kabua returned to the RMI where she served as the director of health promotion and disease prevention. It was there that she met her husband. While expecting their first child, they returned to Chicago with plans to move back to the RMI after giving birth. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced border closures. Mendoza Kabua, her family, and many other Marshallese citizens could not return.
At a seemingly hopeless time, Mendoza Kabua stepped up to assist with repatriation efforts. This led to her family’s return to Hawaii. Mendoza Kabua helped to coordinate the safety measures that would allow hundreds of Marshallese citizens from all over the world to finally return home.
Mendoza Kabua credits her successes to her faith and her education. She is the first in her family to graduate high school, and, with a BSN in hand, she has no plans of stopping her educational pursuits. She is on her way to earning her master’s of science in advanced population health nursing at the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“Education is the key to understanding how you can contribute,” Mendoza Kabua says. One lesson she wants to pass on to other nurses and potential nurses: “You matter. You have a purpose, and that purpose can impact a community.”