One of the great advantages of volunteering with VFV is the wealth of projects offered to suit each volunteer’s personal interests and talents, no matter what niche. Like Allyn Auslander, for instance, who –when she isn’t working at her rural health clinic projects – is busy filling out applications for post-graduate study in epidemiology. Do her experiences at VFV prove useful for her research interests? “Absolutely. I’ve only been here a few days and already seen so many unusual conditions: Schistosomiasis, Scabies, Tuberculosis, Leprosy. Yesterday, we even had a man come in who needed to be treated for a rabies bite”.
Getting hands-on, practical experience in such a range of rare conditions is exactly what inspires many medical, nursing and pre-med students to take on VFV rural health clinic placements. But these roles aren’t exclusively for people with medical experience. Anyone who wants to feel they are doing something worthwhile can volunteer to help here.
The Rural Health Clinics throughout Leyte offer a practical solution to many of the problems facing the Philippines. They function as a free walk-in centre for the local community, which is particularly crucial in a country where standard medical care costs are financially unviable for many. The Sta. Fe clinic where Allyn volunteers serves a population of 17,000, mostly made up of village networks. They offer basic medical care, consultations, check-ups and even baby deliveries, all of which volunteers assist with.
Allyn’s role in the clinic varies from day to day, but provides support to the doctor and handful of nurses working there. “Every day is something different, but there’s a lot of neonatal work here, we have on average seven or eight deliveries of new babies every week”.
As well as the walk-in clinic, Allyn assists local nurses as they travel to nearby villages to deliver medical assistance directly to impoverished areas. This is a crucial part of the placement, with three weeks out of every month at the clinic involved in some such visitation work. Here, free vaccinations are given to children, check-ups are offered to all locals, and many lectures in public health and herbal medicine are given as an ongoing strategy to raise general awareness on health.
“We vaccinate babies against Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis and provide free health check-ups on anyone who needs them”. The nurses explain to me. Much of this is tailored to the National Household Targeting System, a government incentive by which they closely monitor health statistics in poverty-stricken areas. “Family planning is also a huge part of this” the nurses continue. “Each time we’re here, we educate people on the importance of contraception, explain different types and how they work, and then provide them free of charge”.
For Allyn, this means quickly honing myriad skills, including taking temperatures and blood pressures, as well as learning about localized medical problems, notably Schistosomiasis. This infection is caught after contact with contaminated water. The parasite responsible is common in many rural areas here, but easily avoided if enough awareness is spread about it. Offering specialized treatments to those suffering from the disease is a big part of the health clinic placement.
“We only have one doctor and a handful of nurses working here” Dr. Josefina Balderian, the clinic physician tells me. “So we can use all the help we can get, we’ve been having VFV volunteers for four years and hopefully will continue to into the future”.
Kamila Kocialkowska, latest Media Intern for Volunteer for the Visayans writes about the experiences of fellow volunteers working in various VFV projects. In this article, Kamila talks about Allyn Auslander, a volunteer from the United States of America who has recently volunteered at a Sta. Fe Rural Health Clinic in Leyte, Philippines.