In January 2013 I came to Tacloban with a group of 55 volunteers on a pre planned medical mission. The city and the people were exclamatory beautiful. Typhoon Haiyen, well-known to the Filipinos as Yolanda, changed the sight of the city but not the values, hopes and the kindness of the people. The medical mission I was a part of in January 2013 juxtaposed to our unplanned SEMPER disaster medical mission now is without question a huge dichotomy. No words can adequately describe the sight of the devastation, the stories of lives, livelihood and homes lost… the resiliency of the Filipino people..
Our medical mission to the remote villages was greeted with smiles, with people repairing the school or health center roofs, sweeping water from floors, bringing chairs and tables within 30 minutes of arriving to the sites. People are appreciative of our presence even if we just hand them vitamins, cleanse their wounds or listen to their stories. Despite lives lost and everything lost from the people, they were calm, very few have anxiety or PTSD…will that occur later…perhaps not. Why? The sense of community, the everlasting hope of people as a result of the presence of people ready to help from all over the world… the US, Israel, Australia, Germany, Korea, Japan, China and many more countries.
As I examine each patient, seeing Upper Respiratory Infections, weakness, dizziness I keep asking myself what my role is. I came here for the trauma, emergencies, the PTSD… We are seeing a minority of these cases. Also my role is to keep the people’s hopes up. This sentiment is shared by our group.
I find it an honor to work with selfless volunteers who left their families, used unpaid time from work, took risk to come to an area where no one knew what to expect. Now we know it is to experience being with such beautiful people. This experience is once in a lifetime. It is transformative for most of us who have a lot of material things.