The expectation was the difficult environment every country might have to face. The more difficult the living environment, the more work needs to be done. However, the environment appeared very difficult, the people appears very calm and even they do not regard it as a difficulty!
What can we do now?
- Should we expose the people about the living standard we are enjoying?
- Should we expose the environment we have seen to the general public through the media?
- Should we continue the present work, the same scale & the same direction, just to relieve their problems like difficulty in having medical consultation?
Before we answer all these questions, we can start with an introduction of observation over the 2 days stay at Navotas, Philippines.
It was a lovely day when we took the evening flight and arrived at Philippines at 9pm, due to the traffic congestion, we were stuck in the jam for more than an hour and luckily the driver redirected the journey away from the congested road surface; a normal half an hour journey took 2 hours to the church.
During the first night stay, I did feel I went back to my home village 40 years ago in China. It was quiet but hot boarding house at the back of the local church. The first night I was sleepless due to the strangeness and hotness.
The next morning, we briefly finished the breakfast and started the medical clinic at 8am. We did have a number of children to see us and they had URI. The striking part always came late – 2 kids had worm infestation in their abdomens; one fragile grossly undernourished child was brought by the mother and 2 volunteers into the clinic at noon. The 2 worm infestations were not difficult because we did have potent anti-parasitic drug. For the malnourished child, the team did advise the mother many times and milk powder was given to help. What made the child dying? Was there short of aid or did the mother understand the importance of following the advice?
Seeing patients is one of the enjoyable parts of my life but knowing that we can help but we cannot really help means frustration and we might doubt about the future and the result of the voluntary work!
With this observation in mind, we would continue the journey and Dr. Fan actually is planning the next stage of Health In action. We had a long talk after lunch; certainly I was a new comer to them, I would rather listen to their opinions. The team is strong in spirit and does love to continue their work to relieve the pain in the slum(s). I was brought to see 3 slums – next to the highway and the river, next to the container storage and around the cemetery close to the shore.
Interestingly, they were keen and did know people inside the slums; they could do little to change for several reasons –
- People who are residing at the slums have no formal residential status in Manila, all the social benefit they cannot enjoy (the general neglect of the government).
- They have different leaders inside the slums, their disagreement among them is part of the hindrance for building a toilet.
- The slump was built by very fragile materials so that the added on features might not last because of the torrential raining and flooding.
- Children are not keen in improving their lives because as they are asked what they would like to do, they might just say nothing or do what their parents are doing.
- The average household in the slums are having 3 or more children, the resources for each individual are scarce and the focus on their school lives minimal.
Thus it would not be effective though there are many foreign aids to try to improve their lives.
The solutions definitely are not coming from the several volunteers; nor even from the larger scale foreign aids. The general awareness of the Filipinos for their people is the ray of hope.
- The church is a place for hope but not a place to hide.
- The government is the parents of these people and certainly should shoulder full responsibility to improve their living environment.
- The people is responsible to know their own situation and foresee the future generations so that whether they are living around or in the slump, they should come out and determine what is the most important issues, telling the church and the government what is the plan in the coming 1, 3 and 5 years.
- Certainly, the foreign aid is important if there is technical issue or professional advice needed.