Restoring Eyesight, Restoring Hope: Field Notes from Kapampangan Development Foundation Site Visit

Article authored by Rizza M. Paray

One of Alay foundation’s ongoing field programs is to locate people suffering from cataracts of the eye and poor eyesight.  We interview these prospective patients to identify need and we then transport them, under the kind guidance of Ma’am Aida Cleofas, an Alay Foundation volunteer, to Kapampangan Development Foundation in San Fernando, Pampanga.  Once they reach KDF they are screened for the procedure, undergo surgery, and then return for their post-operative follow-up visits.  The people travel for hours to reach Pampanga but they endure the journey with the hope of having their eyesight restored at no cost to them at any time.  The alternatives for those with cataracts is to have their operations at local hospitals where they will be billed the balance after the government subsidy of PhilHealth which is altogether too expensive for so many Filipinos who live in absolute poverty.

Dianne and I made our first site visit to our partner organization, Kapampangan Development Foundation, on May 8th.  Our founder, Dr. Sobrepena, introduced us to KDF’s compassionate staff.  We took a guided tour of KDF’s facilities and we were able to capture our visit through photography.  Dianne and I had the good fortune of meeting with several patients preparing for surgery as well as those returning for their post-operative follow-up appointments.  KDF and its dedicated staff conduct this surgical outreach program with passion and with empathy for the community they serve.  While some medical missions are designed to move from one area to another and yet another – making follow-up visits impossible, Kapampangan Development Foundation’s program for cataract patients is a dedicated program located in the community and created to see its patient through the whole process to healing – from screening and surgery to all follow-up visits and any concerns that arise in between.

I am excited to report that day by day the number of people visiting our offices for inquiries about the cataract surgeries increases.  It is so very gratifying to help people who are suffering and are in need.  Alay Foundation is an organization that cares about people and it is rewarding to join a group of such committed staff and volunteers.  Together we are reaching those who need our help and services the most.  In a blog post coming soon I will be able to share with you my experiences working with the children in need of cleft lip and/or cleft palate reconstructive surgeries.  Their beautiful spirits will leave an indelible mark on you as they did on me.

Field Notes: A Visit to Kapampangan Development Foundation and Post-Operative Interviews

Photo:  May 8, 2015 – Cataract patients gather in San Jose before making the journey to Pampanga for screenings and surgeries.

Article written by Dianne Castelo

Two weeks ago, on May 8th, I visited Kapampangan Development Foundation to learn about their cataract screening and surgery program.  It was astonishing to see just how many people were waiting at the doors to be cured of their cataracts.  There were those that were there for their first screening, and there were those there for surgery,and yet others for their post-operative follow-up appointments.  KDF organizes this program free of charge for the impoverished in their community of Pampanga, as well as in ours, San Jose City, Nueva Ecija

While transporting several of the patients back to San Jose I had the opportunity to speak with them about their experiences.  All had travelled a great distance to have their eyesight restored and I could see the joy and hope in their faces.  Their indescribable gratitude for the partnership between KDF and Alay Foundation that allowed them to see again without any cost to them left me humbled.  Their happiness was my happiness.  I was truly amazed by their gratitude and it was the first time I felt so much a part of something bigger than myself – something as important as the work of Alay Foundation.   We brought our patients home to their families after a long and good day.

Alay Foundation tracks the progress of the patients in the cataract program and follows up with patients throughout their experience.  I recently had the opportunity to meet with two of our patients, Mrs. Victoria DeGuzman and Mrs. Adelaida Cleofas, both of whom are recovering nicely.   

Mrs. DeGuzman  has suffered from cataracts for the past two years during which time she became less and less able to do her work around the house leaving her feeling frustrated at not being able to be as active as she once was.  Not able to afford the cataract surgery on her own, she was entirely grateful to enroll in Kapampangan Development Foundation’s surgical program and for the dedicated transportation of Alay Foundation.  Since completing her surgeries, Mrs. DeGuzman has resumed her usual activities and never misses an opportunity to share her experience with her friends and neighbors suffering from eye problems.

Mrs. Adelaida Cleofas has been living with diminished sight from her cataracts for nearly two years.  She shared with me her sadness at losing the ability to remain active in her work at home.  Mrs. Cleofas was not in a position to afford the expensive surgery at the local hospital and turned to Alay Foundation and KDF when living with cataracts became too much to bear.  Now, nine months since completing surgery for both eyes, Mrs. Cleofas has become an powerful advocate sharing her experience with others and volunteering with Alay Foundation in its transportation program in support of KDF.

Having met these two remarkable women, I can say I feel a greater sense of fulfillment knowing that I have  touched people’s lives even if it was in such a small way as a gesture of kindness and friendship during our interviews. 

Women and Men are Partners in Family Planning

The following post is authored by Genna Preston.  She has recently joined Alay Foundation as our Communications and Social Media Specialist

Not only is today the International Day of Families, but today is the day we embrace the unity of families and decision making among both men and women. This year’s focus is gender equality and the rights of children within families. As stated by The United Nations, “The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.”

As we support this year’s International Day of Families, Alay Foundation commits to promote gender equality through community outreach family planning education campaigns.  These community education classes will focus on medically accurate information about modern family planning methods and will encourage both partners to discuss their options and decide together what method works best for their families.

According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), half of the estimated 3.4 million annual pregnancies in the Philippines are unplanned.  Many of these unplanned pregnancies resulted from a lack of knowledge about and/or access to modern family planning methods.  These unplanned pregnancies can come with many dire consequences:

Active participation among both partners in choosing family planning methods is essential for the stability and future of families in the Philippines and globally.  When partners discuss family planning options together, it encourages equal participation and can strengthen the bond between them.

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Field Notes: Pagibang Damara Festival of San Jose City, Part II

Photo:  Dianne Castelo, Communications Associate and Office Manager, Alay Foundation, located in San Jose City, the Philippines

Article written by Dianne Castelo

I joined Alay Foundation less than a month ago and while I am already enjoying my work immensely it is also challenging me to take on a more public role communicating the Foundation’s mission and programs to people of all walks of life.  I believe God had a hand in providing me this position and I am confident that I will grow and change in so many beneficial ways, both personally and professionally.

One of the first tasks I encountered on the job was putting together and organizing Alay’s participation in the Pagibang Damara Festival trade fair in San Jose City.  Unlike other booths at the fair we were not selling wares of any kind.  Rather, we were sharing with the public Alay Foundation’s programs and services for the community.  The Foundation is woman-centered and offers many benefits for those who will be planning their families, are interested in reproductive health issues and education, and, of course, for those who will be able to use Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center to be located in San Jose City, serving all 38 surrounding barangays. 

We spoke with many people at the fair and explained some family planning concepts with them such as the role of spacing pregnancies two to three years apart for the optimal health of mother and child, as well as the importance of prenatal care and nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy.

While there are many options for safe and effective modern family planning methods, a number of women still choose traditional methods such as periodic abstinence, the rhythm method, and withdrawal because they fear ill effects on their health from modern contraceptives.  However, with the exception of total abstinence, traditional methods are actually less effective than modern contraceptives and modern methods are completely safe.

We used our laptops to deliver presentations on family planning, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections to small groups of people that formed at our booth.  All in all, our presence and community outreach at the Festival was successful! 

As Alay Foundation’s Communications Associate, I am looking forward to planning and promoting our upcoming events such as our June 13th Blood Drive.  Be sure to come out that day and support us.  Tell your friends, family, and colleagues that donating blood is 100% safe and it SAVES LIVES.  Each of us can be a lifesaver – all it takes is one person and one donation at a time.

Field Notes: Pagibang Damara Festival of San Jose City

photo:  Rizza M. Paray, Alay Foundation’s Administrative Coordinator located in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, the Philippines

Article written by Rizza M. Paray

Alay Foundation recently participated in the trade fair of the Pagibang Damara Festival of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.  We set up our booth just outside City Hall and invited the people to learn of our Foundation’s programs and services.  There was much preparation in the days and hours before the fair began.  We needed a tent and tables, banners and flyers, laptops and chairs, and so much more.  We planned how to approach people and describe Alay Foundation’s programs in order to introduce ourselves to the community.

On the day of the trade fair we noticed how different our booth was from the others who had products to sell such as clothes and slippers, sim cards and bonsai, and, of course, foods.  But we were armed with information and programs designed to serve the people.  It is not everyone who can afford to go to the hospital or a medical center when in need or even just for check-ups.  I realized the importance of Alay Foundation’s mission and how our booth was relevant for so many people, especially the poor and the young who are most in need of family planning, health education, and having access to quality health care in our soon to come birthing and women’s center and all at no cost for the people.  

We struggled that first day in attracting people – but then our manager suggested we have an educational raffle drawing.  We reached out to the crowd with sexual and reproductive health questions on topics of ovulation, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections and other health education questions. When participants answered correctly to our questions they received a raffle ticket for Sunday’s Grand Draw – the final day of the fair.  We continued to distribute flyers and met with many people.  During the Grand Draw all the participants were so excited – but there could only be three winners!  We were very proud of all of the winners and everyone who participated.  But the most important thing was connecting with the community and sharing all the ways we will be serving them now and in the future.

I am happy to be a part of Alay Foundation because through our organization I am able to help people in my own way and see the changes in their lives for the better.  I look forward to seeing Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center helping people in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.

Midwives Save Lives

Midwifery has been with us, and central to our communities, since the beginning of time when women attended each other’s deliveries, ushering in new life. Through human development, midwifery has come to be institutionalized and professionalized.  This year’s International Day of the Midwife is themed “for a better tomorrow.”  Midwives not only save lives, they provide hope for that better tomorrow. 

The Philippines, a low to middle income nation, is one of 68 countries that contribute to 97% of all maternal, newborn, and early childhood deaths each year worldwide.  2015 is the ultimate target year of the Millennium Development Goals, a broad-based international effort to eliminate poverty and its effects.  Millennium Development Goal #5 seeks to address maternal mortality, reducing by three-quarters the number of women dying in pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period.  Sadly, the Philippines will not achieve the target of 52 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.  Instead, 11 women will die each day leaving more than 30 children motherless for each maternal death.

Midwives are crucial in providing a host of reproductive health care services – from family planning that allows women and their families to number and space their children to vital pre-natal care that can identify at-risk pregnancies in time to refer mothers to physicians and facilities that provide life-saving interventions.  Women are not dying from untreatable diseases and conditions during pregnancy and childbirth – they are dying from preventable causes:  hemorrhage, hypertension, sepsis, obstructed and prolonged labor, and complications from abortion.  Midwives are key to providing not only skilled birth attendance but the essential pre and post natal care an expectant mother needs during what is one of life’s most joyous experiences.

Save the Children and the World Health Organization estimate that another 350,000 midwives are needed to reduce maternal and newborn deaths.  Knowing how pivotal women are to human progress, how they stabilize their societies – from nurturing their loved ones to nurturing their economies and their nations in the process – their tragic and unspeakable loss is felt by families and communities  across the globe.

Facility-based births are on the rise in the Philippines as more women avail themselves of pre-natal care with midwives, nurses, and doctors.  Birthing centers that partner with midwives, such as the one Alay Foundation is building, are the community connection to securing the health of so many mothers and newborns.  Our birthing and women’s center is creating programming that effectively promotes and empowers midwives by making available the space, equipment, and technology to assist them in providing for expectant mothers and by facilitating continuing professional development for each of our partner midwives.  Celebrate midwives, today, and for that “better tomorrow.”  They bring forth the future through their dedication, skill, experience, and compassion.

 

Click on the link below to read “Giving Life, Giving Health:  The Role of Midwives”

http://wp.me/p4WSRY-1hD