The following was written by Matt Riley who handled all of our in-country logistics. It was because of him our trip went so well. Thank you for your time and effort Matt!
The last 9 days have been a whirlwind of activity. There is no doubt that this effort has paid massive dividends and I have seen it every day in the smiles and the polite nods of gratitude that I have received from the people of Culasi.
Having first come to the town of Mt. Madja-as 34 years ago and being very familiar with the people and the place, I now feel like I have completely shared it with the members of HRIMM. It has been fantastic to sit back and watch the interaction between my good friends from Antioch and my good friends from Culasi. The people to people connection here is significant. So is the medical care.
My Kinaray-a language skills have gotten a definite boost, as lacking any real medical care abilities; I have served mainly as a translator. Most of the time this was not a problem and I was able to communicate to the team member I was working with just what the patients problems were. I am of course not a native speaker, and deferred to Jun Ramirez from the University of the Philippines Visayas when I knew that I would have difficulty in explaining the nuances of both the patients problems and the team members instructions.
Jun was amazing as was the other UPV member of the team, Joemar Cagampang. Eric Steiner, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer on loan to us from the Provincial Risk Reduction Coordinating Agency in the Provincial capital of San Jose, was likewise a big help, working closely with the pharmacy people and helping them stay organized. I have made a lot of new friends in the last couple of weeks, and thus my life has been significantly enriched.
I hope that we can do this again next year. Our follow up for about a dozen patients will continue in the capable hands of Nikki Tamayo, my Goddaughter from Culasi who quickly became a valued member of the dentistry staff and Dr. Jefferies assistant. She is making sure that patients who were referred to a local surgeon or who were still waiting for prescriptions to be filled receive the help they need. I will also be back in Culasi in a couple of weeks and will begin to sow the seeds for another HRIMM visit!!! The medical problems the team witnessed are substantial, and plans are underway for continued support by working with Iloilo City-based Rotary clubs and with the Culasi District Hospital. I will be home in late March and look forward to seeing the team again, and reliving our shared experience.