Building Women’s and Children’s Health in the Philippines
John P. Howe, III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE, visits health facilities in Bantayan Island, the Philippines that have been helped by Project HOPE.
Our team set out for Bantayan Island and the town of Bogo to observe the great work of HOPE’s nurse trainers. To get to Bantayan, we drove to the northern tip of Cebu – about a three-hour drive – and then took a one-hour car ferry. Upon arrival, we were met by our local staff members, who drove us to our first stop at the district hospital. It was clean and well-maintained, and it was a joy to observe HOPE’s nurse trainers provide family planning training to a rapt audience of expectant mothers. The importance of those lessons were never more evident than when we witnessed a 17-year old couple and their premature infant who had been quickly placed in an incubator. The number of births at the hospital has been steadily increasing after the wonderful addition of a dedicated, tireless obstetrician. HOPE’s work in health education and training is more important than ever. It was also exciting to see the HOPE donated equipment in use at the hospital, including an autoclave, a generator, birthing scales, and the incubator that was helping the premature baby survive.
We left the hospital to visit the Rural Health Unit – the public health facility that focuses on deliveries, family planning, and immunizations. Again, we witnessed HOPE educators teaching family planning to expecting mothers. Like in Camotes, the appreciation and warmth displayed by the hospital and clinic staff, the beneficiaries, and the local leadership spoke for itself. The local Mayor and city counselor hosted a lovely lunch near the shore, sharing stories and strengthening our partnership.
From Bantayan, we traveled to the city of Bogo and visited with the local midwife who is running the Lapaz Barangay Health Station (BHS). I was so impressed with her dedication to improving health services for women and children. She, along with her two young children, live in the BHS so they can be available 24 hours a day! She loves her work, is proud of what she does, and this could not have been more evident. Outside the BHS, the Project HOPE team met with the community leadership in the process of electing the Barangay health and patient advocacy committee, as part of our overall strategy to build the health service delivery network in the area – a community-led, bottom-up approach to health empowerment and ownership.
After spending this time with our Project HOPE colleagues, partners, and beneficiaries in Camotes, Pilar, Cebu, Bantayan, and Bogo, and with the knowledge we also have a strong presence in Iloilo on Panay Island, I came away more energized and committed than ever. Our work and the great mission of Project HOPE all over the world – helping underprivileged populations devastated by natural disasters – is so vitally important to the fostering of strong, healthy communities for the future. To further experience our commitment to staying long after a disaster disappears from the headlines, we then set out for our health programs in Indonesia – a country that has survived enormous challenges after the devastating tsunami 10 years ago.