Kurt Gonzales, 36, is a nurse from the Philippines who moved to New York City in 2011. Gonzales is a member of the New York Filipino Seventh-day Adventist Church and one of the directors of “Wellness on the Go,” a nonprofit initiative funded by the church, which is located in Ozone Park, Queens. This day-long project, held for the first time this year on Aug. 26, combines health and missionary work by offering a range of services including free massages, blood pressure tests, short consultation sessions and prayer requests. The project started this summer when state church officials asked Gonzales’ wife, Kristi, a licensed nurse in the U.S., to create an outreach program. Kurt Gonzales has been studying for the U.S. nursing exam but is not yet licensed to practice here. He had been working as a computer programmer and graphic designer for nine years in the Philippines, before deciding in 2007 to become a nurse.
To help people and to serve them in a holistic way and also uplift humanity. Serving people is just my passion.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BE A PART OF THIS PROJECT?
In the Bible, it says, “As you go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: Freely ye have received, freely give.”
WHAT’S CHALLENGING ABOUT INTERACTING WITH PATIENTS?
The challenge is when people try to ask for more what you can give, asking like you are their slave or something. Sorry for the term.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PATIENT COMPLAINTS?
You have to be polite to them. As a nurse, it’s our duty to serve them in any way you can in a respectful manner. Even in the most difficult situation just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and you will be fine.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR TYPE OF PATIENT YOU FIND DAUNTING?
Kids are hard to deal with. They cry uncontrollably. You can’t help them to take medicine. It’s so hard to see them cry. Before, I don’t actually feel like I have sympathy for this situation, but now that I have a son and a daughter, I can understand.
DID ANYTHING SUPRISE YOU ABOUT BEING IN NEW YORK CITY?
The people here are much more liberated than us. … I think we are just very conservative. … Also, when I got here, I was by amazed by the weather because in our place it’s tropical. … You have four seasons here. It just amazes me.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO HAVE THIS PROJECT “ON THE GO” AND NOT IN A PERMANENT ADDRESS THAT PEOPLE COULD VISIT?
Well, it’s the general conference’s idea. My wife and I were planning where this should take place, and we took it to the board meeting. We checked all the places around, which has more people and where it has more of those who need our services. That’s when we found Elmhurst Park and because it has a lot of Filipinos as well. There are a lot of people there, … so we can give services to them and then at the same time preach gospel while we are doing wellness services.
WHICH PART OF THE PROJECT WERE YOU IN CHARGE OF?
I was in massage relaxation. … I studied massage in the Philippines. It took me nine months as a caregiver course, in addition to my nursing course.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THIS PROJECT GOING?
This is just our first time. If this comes out okay, we are going to do it over and over again. We will try again in other places … where there are a lot of passersby.