I didn’t quite know what to expect jumping out of the jeepney at Bliss for the first time. Walking down the concrete alley, passing through the arch, I was immediately greeted with smiles and introductions. There was so much to take in the first five minutes, I took comfort knowing I had three weeks to soak it all up and see what the Philippines and the medical mission had in store. It turned out three weeks was no where near long enough for me to ‘soak’ it all up.
The whole trip ranks #1 on my lifetime accomplishments as I weigh my experiences in Pastrana’s rural health unit, the two medical missions in Alangalang and Tacloban City, the beach excursions and the lifelong friendships kindled with other volunteers. I couldn’t have gotten this kind of medical experience and training anywhere else in the world. That is the best thing I can say about Volunteer for the Visayans. Elsewhere, I would have flown halfway around the world to watch over a shoulder, clean utensils or a host of other passive responsibilities. With this program, being humble and taking initiative goes a long way. Gaining the doctors trust after observing several circumcisions, having them hand me the scissors and anesthesia was an immense compliment that inspires self-assurance and confidence that you need in the medical field. In three weeks, I had help perform over twenty circumcisions and helped deliver three babies at the rural health unit, not to mention countless vaccinations and several trauma patients requiring stitching and bandaging. I was also able to see some conditions of tropical climates that I wouldn’t normally see back home, i.e. schistosomiasis.
Daily I rode in a “pimped out” jeepney, only to jump out the back, and onto a motorcycle that sped me passed rice fields, coconut and banana farms, petty cabs, karibaw drawn carts and smiling faces. Once a group of 30 kids surrounded our motorcycle running alongside us, smiling ear to ear, just because we were there with them. It was the first in a long time that I had felt an overwhelming sense of joy. It wasn’t about me, I was there for them, I hope they knew that.
VFV also gives you ample time on the your “off” days for some R&R. Climbing coconut trees on a secluded island, cave spelunking and cliff jumping at Caliwayan Beach Resort were a few extreme activities that will forever stand out in my mind. There is nothing like standing out in the middle of a pristine beach at low tide on Kalanggamman Island, ‘discovering’ starfish, sea urchins, sea squirts, eels, fish and of course the bioluminescence. I am a nature lover at heart. Observing these miracles also made for great stories and great memories.
Memories! This trip wasn’t lacking on memories. The VFV staff, the Bliss community, the Pastrana RHU, the adventures, the medical experience and last but not least, the friendly, hospital nature of the Filipinos definitely made this trip one of the best times of my life. VFV – Keep doing great work. Continue your goals of humanitarian healthcare and healing the sick, get the kids out of the dumpsite, give them an education, feed those who are hungry, care for the orphans because great will be your reward! These joys we experience during this time of service are only the firstfruits of things to come! Hope to see you guys soon and make even greater memories in the future! Thanks so much.
262nd Street Canistota,