Monday, May 28, 2012

Love Reaches Out: Missions in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

Reaching out to the Southernmost Island 

June 25, 2012: A Medical Community Assistance Program (MEDCAP) was organized by the local government unit of Bongao in Tawi-tawi in partnership with the ACIM Asia, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Bongao Doctors’ Association, Philippine Marines and other local nongovernmental organizations of the ARMM, as part of the 54th founding anniversary celebration.

The MEDCAP aimed to reach out to the indigent people of Bongao and to the marginalized populace of the remote island communities, who were transported into the mainland, to avail of the free medical consultation, medicines, vaccines, dental extraction, eye examination and eyeglasses as needed, haircut, and reflexology.  

The Philippine Navy helped in the transportation of medicines from Jolo, Sulu and of the medical volunteers from Zamboanga city, to Bongao.
The municipality has no allotment for health from the provincial government. Hence, the municipal government is outsourcing to materialize a medical outreach, which intends to alleviate the immediate medical needs of its constituents that will lead to a gradual improvement of the general public economy.  When a patient has serious medical illness, they have to travel to Zamboanga city, usually taking the 18-hour travel via boat, for appropriate medical services. 

Four hundred and thirty seven patients of Bongao were served at the mission: 174 patients for medical consultation, 46 patients for reflex foot therapy, 110 patients for dental extraction, 30 patients for eye check up and 64 for haircut.

Simultaneously, in the parish church a few steps from the mission area, rosaries, scapulars, and medals were distributed among the Catholic community, through the assistance of Our Lady of Holy Rosary parish priest and staff.

The employees of the municipal government were so happy to receive rosaries and catechism pamphlets before the mission.

Mathilde Rigolot, a volunteer from France, participated in the said medical outreach by helping out in the Pharmacy area together with other ACIM Asia volunteers. She came to Bongao days before the mission proper to help in transporting the medicines, coordinating with the Catholic community, and organizing accommodation for medical volunteers and other logistics.  The patients, after receiving free medical consultation, dental extractions and check up, were more overwhelmed when they claimed their free medications from a smiling foreign woman in the pharmacy area.  Sometimes, a little gesture of genuine kindness, is more appreciated than the goods being given.

Lanjal kamu: Welcome to the Joint MedCAP !
 April 27, 2012

Barangay Bunbun, Patikul, Sulu - 9 hour vessel ride from Zamboanga City. The area is so remote that there  was no signal for mobile phones, except in  a specific single spot.  The team arrived very late on the night prior to the event.
The port of  Barangay Bunbun

The medical civic action program started at around 9AM.  Patients were registered and their initial vital signs and their baseline data were taken before they could enter the camp. Services that could be availed of inside the camp were dental consultation and extraction, medical and ophthalmic consultation and tests, vaccination for children, bloodletting, and minor surgeries.

Dr Bagongon and the opthal team conducting test for a patient

Of course there was also a pharmacy where patients could get their free medicines.  ACIM Asia was in charge of dispensing the medicines.  A volunteer pharmacist whom we worked with during the March 14, 2012 ground zero MedCAP was also there, unexpectedly. He and his friend translated the instructions on proper medication in the local dialect – Tausug. Health teachings were also injected during the distribution of medicines.
Baby receiving a vaccination
The team served 327 patients for medical and dental. The aim of the event  was to give thanks to the locals, who had been very cooperative with the efforts of the government in sustaining a long-term culture of peace in the area. 

Many locals took advantage of the rare opportunity for health relief given to them.  The area is very remote and land travel is perilous,  so health workers  cannot easily access the area, and sick locals cannot also easily go to hospitals.  This mission brought special joy to patients and mission volunteers alike.

April 28, 2012
We left the MBLT 11 camp at around 17:00 and went  to Jolo, Sulu. The team  stayed in KHTB, a military camp in Jolo, for the night until the next day's medical outreach.

Kids playing Apple Eating Contest, among other games, during  the medical mission

The program had already started when we arrived.  As we busied ourselves in setting  up the medical mission venue,  the rest of the crowd engaged in tree planting.   The  mission was conducted in Sitio Bayog, mount Bayog, Talipao, Sulu, in a small school that had only 2 rooms.  We set up one room for the medical consultation, dental services and opthalmologic check up, while we assigned the other room as the pharmacy and minor surgery area. The barbers were installed in the open field, next to the feeding area.

The team served 100 patients for general medicine (both adult and pediatric), 45 for ophthalmology (free eyeglasses given according to their specific need), and 12 patients for minor surgery.

Our Lady - our inspiration, refuge and strength in the mission..
Health of the sick, pray for us!

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