Last month, the Don Bosco Past Pupils Association of Lawaan, Philippines, helped organize a free medical clinic for impoverished children and families who otherwise could not afford care. This annual one-day clinic was hosted at the Don Bosco Formation Center on the island of Cebu, and staffed by local volunteer medical professionals. Close to 300 patients received care and education to improve their well-being and quality of life.
“In the Philippines -- as in so many other countries -- health outcomes are far worse for those living in poverty,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “With no real system of insurance, people must pay for their medical expenses -- even basic preventive care -- out of their own pockets."
“Prescription costs are often prohibitively high,” he continues. “And so, families make tough choices every day: forego necessary care, or go into debt in order to pay their doctors’ bills. Some even take their children out of school in order to earn money for this purpose. These difficult choices further perpetuate the cycle of poverty and severely limit future opportunities.”
With almost 25 million Filipinos living at, or below, the poverty line, such health clinics are therefore critically important. Infants and children, especially, suffer the most from lack of access to care. According to the World Bank, the likelihood of children under five dying from inadequate maternal and child care is almost three times higher among the poorest populations of the Philippines compared to the richest.
Cardiologist Alex Junia, a past Salesian student and president of the Philippine Heart Association, coordinated the clinic in cooperation with the local government. Social workers identified residents most in need of care, alerted them of the event, and arranged transportation to the site. There, physicians and other medical professionals offered maternal screenings, including ultrasounds; pediatric exams; basic preventive care exams for adults; blood pressure and glucose screenings and more. They also provided free medicine in addition to 200 packages of fortified rice meals to those requiring nutritional support.
“By participating in this clinic, poor children and families have taken a crucial step toward improving their own health and prospects for the future,” Dr. Junia says. “Together with the Salesians’ efforts to address the root causes of poverty throughout the islands, we can begin moving toward better health outcomes and quality of life for all.”
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are highlighting those works of corporal and spiritual mercy that -- for more than 160 years -- have been woven throughout the fabric of our service to the poor. Visiting the sick is one such example. Through the kindness of our friends, we are able to bring God’s love to those in need.