Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marinduque Medical Mission of Love, 2011

Marinduque International Medical Mission Volunteers, Buenavista, Marinduque, 2011.

Volunteer work, my heaven on earth
I have helped my less fortunate brethren with my time, effort and resources. I know I have truly lived because I have touched the lives of others.

I have been an active member of Marinduque International, Inc. (MI,Inc) for many years and have served for its seven bi-annual Medical and Dental Missions since 1998 in Marinduque, Philippines. MI, Inc is a non-profit organization based in the US. One of its missions is to provide free medical services to the impoverished residents of Marinduque, a small but beautiful island province in the heart of the Philippines. Our group is made up of migrants from the island now living in the first world, mostly in the US and Canada. Through hard work and skills, we have earned our good graces and fortunes from our adopted homeland and we have more than enough to share with our less fortunate countrymates.

We are giving back to the community of our roots because it makes us feel good helping our compatriots. The more that we give of ourselves, the better we feel about ourselves. Whenever I work with the mission, I touch the lives of many of my poor countrymen living in the rural areas of the island. The organization motto is “Our mission is to help and together we will succeed”. My medical mission involvement also projects my favorite quotation: “The time that you have really lived is the time you have touched the lives of others”.

Our mission starts with fund raising by members mostly from our own pockets, friends and relatives. We recruit volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and non-medical support staff to serve the missions, and they pay for their voyage to the islands. We procure and ship medicines badly needed by the islanders. Some of our members who own a place in the island, house the volunteers during the mission period. Others volunteers stay at the local hotels at their own expense but their whole week of food and local transportation is paid by Marinduque International. At the end of each mission we celebrate its success and thank the help of each volunteer as well as the local officials. It is also a time of reflection on all what we have shared of ourselves to our impoverished brothers and sisters. This year our post mission celebration was held at the Bellarocca Resort in Buenavista.

The mission involves serving around 6,000 people from the six towns of the province who wait for hours in line under the sun, a difficult feat in a hot tropical humid setting, within a span of one week. About 40% of these patients from the interior of the province walked for 2 hours or more to reach the town center where the clinics are held. Most of these patients have never been seen by a physician in their lives. However, not everyone will be lucky to be seen by a doctor or provided free medicines. Many will return the next day to our new location to fall in line again and hope to be served for their needs. By the end of the mission a good number of people will never be served. It pains me to know and see the frustration of those who came hoping for help, only to be turned away due to constraints on our time, equipment and medicines.

Last February, it broke my heart when one patient had to be turned away when she was ready for a minor procedure on the operating table because surgical equipment was not available. It baffles me how the provincial government cannot provide a basic surgery instrument in its public hospital. We were on a mission to help and serve, but instead this patient had to deal with frustration, disappointment and anger.

During the mission I was assigned to the Pharmacy section, providing drugs and instructions to the patients. In the town of Buenavista, I had to break protocol and help a mother with her two sick young children. They were coughing and feverish, and were about to be turned away due to the limits in our time and medical volunteers.

I knew it was wrong and I could have been scolded for my actions, but I approached the mother, whispered to her to wait a little longer, and I could do something for her when the line has thinned down. Before closing time I waved for her, handed her vitamins, cough and fever medicines. She thanked me and showed me a smile that I will always remember as long as I live. On that day, I touched the lives of a mother and her two kids, and that was the day that I have really lived.

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