Why Philanthropy? Our Human Connection Is Strengthened By Service to Others

cynthia telles
Our humanity is best defined by service to others—in our families, workplaces, and communities. We are all part of the social fabric and must assume responsibility for each other. We should strive to ensure that we have made a difference in improving the lives of others.
When I first heard of Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), I discovered that their mission to strengthen Latino communities in health care was parallel with my own mission that I’ve had from an early age. My passion for advocacy and service stems from my parents. My father taught by example that public service was a noble calling. He was an Air Force veteran, who became the first Hispanic Mayor of a major U.S. city in the 50’s and later was appointed U.S. Ambassador by President Kennedy. From the time I was very young, I learned about committing oneself to others, starting with the family and leading into the community and nation. My grandmother on my maternal side was an incredible advocate of women, orphans and the disabled during the Mexican Civil War. Needless to say, my family’s passion left an indelible imprint on me.
Advocacy in health care has always been part of my upbringing. In particular, I was passionate about Hispanic mental health care and completed my doctorate in clinical psychology. Understanding the need for bilingual, bicultural clinicians, I became involved in founding a Spanish-speaking psychiatric training clinic at the U.C.L.A. Neuropsychiatric Institute. Additionally, I formed partnerships in the nonprofit community sector and joined the Boards of philanthropic organizations, including The California Endowment and the California Community Foundation. Eventually, I was asked to serve on the Board of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, where I am the Chair of the Community Benefit Committee. We support community health initiatives and promote health equity. Among various noteworthy programs, we have invested in HIP to help train members of philanthropic organizations working to end health and education disparities in their communities.
While working for the National Institute of Mental Health during college, I realized that Hispanics with mental disorders were severely underserved due to the lack of culturally competent mental health professionals. I saw a need for change and began to join forces with community based organizations, as well as advocacy organizations, such as the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.
I believe that true and realistic progress only can be gained through partnerships with our communities that guide and inform our work. Together, we can transform our communities, even if bit by bit, to achieve greater equity in terms of health care.
“Philanthropy” quite literally means love and support for humanity. Hispanics in Philanthropy is a great organization, providing community resources and partnering with community organizations to make the human connections we need to find solutions. In their work to support emerging community leaders, HIP enables them to make a difference by giving the most precious resources any of us have: our time, skills and passion.
To learn more about Cynthia Telles, you can follow her on Twitter here.