Last November 29, a group of Xavier Students organized and participated in a Medical Mission held in Barangay Buayang Bato, Mandaluyong City. The mission was held from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon at the barangay’s basketball court and consisted of volunteer doctors from the Mandaluyong City Health office and Makati Medical Center.
The idea of a medical mission first occurred to us after our initial ocular visit to the Gawad Kalinga Concepcion site. Throughout the ocular visit, we inquired regarding the problems faced by local residents and were told of the health issues they were currently experiencing. As a result, we looked into several options before deciding that a medical mission would be most beneficial to the residents of the area. Having made up our minds, we proceeded to contact the GK liaison for the barangay, Tita Andrea Sta. Cruz, who was delighted to hear that a group of high school students was interested to conduct a medical mission for the community. After a quick discussion, we were referred to the doctor assigned to the local clinic, Dr. Charito Estalani who provided us with information on the diseases of the local residents.
Once we had the groundwork for the project set, we met with the Brgy. Captain Rey De Josep Nobela to discuss the details of the medical mission. The help we obtained from the local officials was invaluable to us as it allowed us to choose a venue, announce a date for the medical mission to the local community, and follow the proper steps for the approval of the Mandaluyong City government. Furthermore, the local officials took charge of obtaining a stage, chairs and tables, and a sound system for the event.
In preparing for the project, we divided the work among the students involved. On one hand, Monty Ngan was in charge of contacting the doctors who would give the health talk and prescriptions. Through him, we contacted the local health clinic, headed by Dr. Pecos Camarines who gladly sent doctor volunteers to participate in the project. Aside from these doctor volunteers, we were able to obtain the help of Dr. Kelly Salvador, a Xavier alumnus along with a representative doctor from Makati Medical Center. Also, we got the help of our batchmate, Spencer Keh, to print out the tarpaulins that announced the medical mission in the community itself.
On the other hand, Ethan Chua was in charge of contacting corporations and NGOs, that could provide the medicines needed for the Medical Mission. After contacting several organizations, we were informed by PHAPCares (Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines), CCF (Christ’s Commission Fellowship), The Medical City and The Generics Pharmacy that the respective organizations were willing to donate medicines for the project. In the month preceding the medical mission itself, we would donate these medicines over the course of several visits in preparation for the day of the project.
During the medical mission itself, we got some of our fellow Xaverians to help us out as volunteers (David Tan, Matthew Tan, Sean Sy, Sean Chan, Shaun Tan, Rene Tan, Leonard Lim, Nathan Oranga, Austin Sy, Terrill Simeon, Simone Salvador, Matthew Ong, Darren Seetekbeng) along with the supervision of Mr. Brian Marana, IB Coordinator, and our High School Principal, Ms. Aimee Apolinario, who visited to check on our progress as well. We played different roles during the mission itself – some of us acted as ushers, showing members of the community how and where to register, some helped distribute the medicines, some measured weight and height of patients, and a smaller group supervised and entertained the children of the community.
Still, even with our roles assigned and the program planned out, we had a difficult time starting the medical mission. At first we weren’t so sure how to begin and spent some of our planning phase just standing around, but things started coming together when the doctors all arrived and we went to perform our roles. We set up one table for each doctor along with a set of prescription papers. Each doctor was also assisted by one Xaverian. We also set up a side table for the medicines, which were dispensed according to the prescriptions of the doctors; the medicines were distributed by Xaverians with the assistance of Ate Imelda Inosanto, who helped identify medicines and made sure no mistakes were made in distribution. Though it was hard to get started because the task itself seemed overwhelming, we were able to work hand in hand with the local members of the community, the volunteer doctors, and the teachers who joined us to keep the program going.
To cap the day, we gathered as a group and shared our reflections over lunch. It was a great experience, where we got to interact with the local community and meet people from different backgrounds and lifestyles. There were many simple but meaningful moments that stood out, like watching daughters bring their aging mothers to the medical counter and helping them pick out medicines and noticing how the doctors would interact with kids while checking them. On a larger scale, though, we also learned about the problems faced by Filipino communities such as difficulties in maintaining health and wellness. It was also a great experience in terms of learning how to organize something new; neither of us had any idea how to put together a medical mission at the start of our planning phase but with a lot of help from the school, the local government, and the GK staff, it came together; cooperation and coordination was key, and we ourselves were surprised at how well things went.
Overall, we learned from experience how difficult it is to come up with sustainable solutions to prevalent problems, and we acknowledge that the impact of the medical mission was not as long-term as we’d like but we still hope it helped in its way. Big problems like sustaining health require big solutions, but small steps like these bring us in the right direction. Ultimately, we hope that this activity will be the first of many projects that are to come as a result of the continued relationship between Xavier School and the community of GK Concepcion.