“In 2010 I was invited, as a GP, to go to the Philippines as part of a medical mission to visit and assist impoverished communities who had been affected by a major flood in Manila. We visited 4 communities, one of whom had been completely displaced by the floods. The government had resettled them in a tiny rural region south east of Manilla, called Calauan. They were living in single room concrete besser block homes with no electricity, no running water, and no access to shops, work, education, fresh food or rubbish disposal. Children were fed one small rice meal per day and there was widespread malnourishment and poor health. The men disappeared for weeks in Manila, finding work to provide their families with some source of income.
The initial trip was a very one-dimensional experience. I felt like we were there to provide momentary western medical ‘magic’ with no longer-term vision of meaningfully improving the health of these communities. It felt like the mission was all about making us feel good, rather than creating real change for the people we were meant to be helping.
Back home I knew that to really make a difference we needed a different approach. In partnership with St Barnabas Broadway and Calvary Christian Fellowship, a plan evolved that sought to improve the health and vitality of the community through long term health care alongside community led education programs—the idea was to teach the community to fish. A novel part of the plan was to invite medical (and dental) students to participate in the medical clinics, giving them access to hands-on experience in a sustained social justice project and the chance to have a direct positive impact on the health of a grateful community in need.
Now, we employ a community nurse, farmer, pastor/youth worker, cook and teacher. We have established a community pharmacy and health clinic, childcare and early education program aligned to a feeding program for severely malnourished children, livelihood programs and a youth centre and youth group. Twice a year, 16 medical students from the University of Notre Dame Australia and 2-3 dental students accompany a small team of dedicated, fully qualified and deeply experienced volunteer doctors and dentists to run intensive medical and dental clinics alongside the education program. They are supported by a team of workers who upgrade and maintain the community’s shared facilities and infrastructure. Recently, in July this year, the team was able to see and help over 500 members of the community in the clinics. The success of this program is driven by our committed team of volunteers, the enthusiasm of the medical and dental students and the ongoing generous donations from hundreds of supporters to fund the required medical and dental supplies.”
Check out Team Philippine’s crowdfunding campaign page: