Organizing a medical mission in the Philippines could be a big job to manage. But with coordination and proper planning, it can be very rewarding.
I did tell you that my husband and I went to the Philippines for a vacation in January 2018. What I still haven’t told you was that we participated in a medical mission before our actual vacation begun. This medical mission was organized jointly by the Philippine Nurses Association Maryland Chapter (PNAMC) and the Association of Philippine Physicians of Maryland (APPM). Not only was it a medical mission, we also had a one-day dental mission participated in by the local dentists. Having the two well-known Filipino medical associations in Maryland for a common endeavor is a welcome feat. And this time, the two organizations banded together for a medical mission to take place in the municipality of Cauayan in Negros Occidental, Philippines.
A lot of preparation goes on when organizing a Philippine medical mission from overseas. Right from the start, the local government must be aware and should approve the event. Once approved, the organizers can then seek the help of the local police. This ensures everyone’s safety and to direct crowd-control.
Organizing a tie-up with a local pharmacy means less hassle in dealing with medicine and supplies. This lessens probable issues with Philippine customs regarding the import of medical supplies. Using a local pharmacy also guarantees that the drugs used are those approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines.
A medical mission also operates smoother when a local civic organization is enlisted. They help facilitate in providing the basic needs of the volunteers. They could give a hand in providing food, lodging, transportation. The civic organization also can invite local doctors, nurses and midwives to participate. Their members can also act as interpreters for those who have no knowledge of the dialect. It definitely takes a whole village to care for a another village.
Cauayan, Negros Occidental is the home of the Lubay-Lubay Festival. The municipality is about 113 kilometers from the provincial capital of Bacolod City. With a population of over 100,000, Cauayan is considered the most-populated municipality in Negros Occidental. To make sure we got to Cauayan on time, our team arrived in Bacolod the day before the first day of the mission. We left our hotel at 4:00 am the next morning to get to Cuayan by 7 o’clock in the morning. Once there, we met up with the rest of the group at the Cauayan Arts Center.
As early at 6:00am, there was a huge crowd gathering by the entrance of the Cauayan Arts Center. And like clockwork, the volunteers of the medical mission knew what they were going to do. Some volunteers were in charge of the crowd-control. Some nurses handled the reception and preliminary patient interview. Other volunteers took care of recording the blood pressure, weight and height measurements of the patients. The other nurses assisted the doctors while they examined the patients. The pediatric nurse practitioners handled the cases of the children.
During the first day, there was also a team of dentists who gave their dental services for free. There was another group of volunteers who screened for blood sugar levels. We closed that first day at about 6:00pm. It was an exhausting day but we all went home to our respective adaptive homes very fulfilled of the day’s accomplishments.
Days 2 and 3 of the medical mission saw us at the Cauayan Health Center. It was a better venue for everyone. There were separate air-conditioned rooms for each of phase of the examination. Crowd-control was also easier to manage because the center was gated. The patients were only allowed in when their numbers were called. They then proceeded to the rooms where they were seen by the doctors/nurse practitioners.
All throughout the 3-day event, we were giving out free medicines and vitamins. Our doctor performed minor surgeries for bumps and lumps. The volunteer local dentists were doing regular tooth extractions. They also gave a talk on proper dental hygiene. The local civic group was handing out snacks and refreshments to all the patients. By the time we ended the mission, we had served a total of 1,843 medical and dental patients.
Admittedly, the whole event was exhausting. It was a lot more rigorous for all the organizers who made the medical mission possible. My hats off to the nurse-organizers. Knowing that we had, somehow, made a small difference in the lives of our kababayans in Cauayan was rewarding enough for us.
Would I do this again? Definitely! My husband and I would join in a heartbeat. Mind you, neither of the organizations paid for our trips nor our accommodations. This was purely voluntary. Interacting with the locals was the best reward we got. Talking with them grounded us. It made us think of people outside the sphere we normally go around in. The event also reminded me to be thankful of the blessings we already have. And most of all, it ignited the fire in our hearts to go out and extend our help more to those who need it.
So if you have the chance to join a medical mission, please do. It is a small way to give back to the community, your small contribution to easing at least one of a brother’s worries.
Till next time, my lovies…
The once named “godmother of the Philippine Blogosphere”, Gigi Manaloto-Refugia, known by her pen name “Ate Sienna” has been blogging since 2002 in her old pansitan.net community where she housed famous bloggers. She now writes about being 50-something and shares her tips on fashion, makeup, skincare, travel, food and thrift-store diving.
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