When Joel Ayapana was four years old his family relocated from Pagbilao, a small village nestled within the archipelagic islands of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. Ayapana’s family had been told that the Midwest was full of employment opportunities, so in the late 1970s the family moved to Cleveland. At times the transition was difficult, particularly when the family had to struggle just to make ends meet.

In 1991 – straight out of high school – Ayapana joined the United States Air Force, where he served until 1996. He remains committed to American veterans and is an active supporter of healing practices that help former soldiers, whether it’s treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or other problems that many former soldiers encounter when attempting to make the difficult transition to civilian life. Ayapana graduated with honors from Cleveland State University, and holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing. For the past 14 years Ayapana has worked in various nursing positions and is currently a triage charge nurse at Cleveland’s Louis Stokes VA Medical Center. Prior to that, he was a nurse case manager tasked with assisting Gulf War veterans. When he is not working, Ayapana enjoys motivational speaking, writing and co-hosting a public radio program. He lives about 15 minutes outside of downtown Cleveland, where he and his wife have recently discovered the city’s burgeoning vegan restaurant scene.

Welcome to Cleveland, Joel!