TWECS 2015 TACLOBAN TRIP
TWECS 2015 TACLOBAN TRIP
TWECS RETURNS TO TYPHOON HAIYAN TACLOBAN AND THE TENT CITIES
Glasses given on 2015 Tacloban Trip 5355
|TWECS original members from Typhoon Yolanda response team. Left to Right-Derrick March, Brad McDougall, Marina Roma-March, Robert Dawson, Brenda Tosoff, Rodger Konkle, Doug Higginson- a great group of humanitarians.
JOIN US ON OUR UPCOMING EYE CARE MISSION TO THE EARTHQUAKE DEVASTATED NEPAL IN MARCH 2016…..
THE UNIVERSAL FAMILY
Eight clinic days into our mission to the Philippines and I am overwhelmed; not by the hard work, the heat, nor the lines waiting for us each morning, but by the gracious, humble and happy people I’ve been blessed to cross paths with. Each day I’m met with at least 500 smiles as I work with patients, pass people on the street or when a group of adorable kids, like these (that’s Richie in the middle), who as we were closing down today came up and asked me where I was from and introduced himself. I’m also overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have been blessed with the ability to have had eye care since age three. While it broke my dad’s heart his son had to wear “Coke bottle” glasses at a young age, that gift of sight allowed me to have the life I have. Each day as I auto-refract patients (technology that provides the eye doctors a starting RX) we come across at least a handful of people aged 9 to over 60, whose RX either matches or supersedes mine and they have never owned a pair of glasses. I can’t even imagine my life without my corrected vision. As a related note and one of my favourite moments of the trip thus far, was being able to give an old pair of my glasses to a young man, who had an almost exact RX as mine, yet never owned a pair of glasses. He was both shocked (seeing life clearly for the first time) and very thankful for his “new” pair of glasses. (Shameless plug: please donate your old glasses, you may change someone’s life).
The other thing that sticks out to me is the happy people I see each day lost so much two years ago during typhoon Yolanda, but that has not stopped them from rebuilding and moving on with their lives. While I came here to help, I’m leaving with a life lesson taught to me by the men, women and children of the Philippine island of Leyte, no matter what comes in your path you find the strength to forge on, and you do it with a smile.
A Universal Family
“Shah ahn, ecca du ha?” I am sure that is not how it is written, but basically that is how it sounds to me all day: “one or two, which is better?” I can’t seem to get away from that phrase even ten thousand miles from my office. My interpreter/assistant on this whole trip so far, a young registered nurse named Lynn, says it all day, and it is ringing in my ears as I write this. Here is a picture of me and Lynn at the Tacloban Hospital.
When we arrived this morning to our clinic site in Tunauan, there were already hundreds and hundreds of people lined up outside. The mass of bodies is a little daunting when we arrive. But this is our seventh straight day, and so our team is starting to get comfortable with what to do and what their roles are. So within minutes of arrival the day is off and running. We examine people in a stage by stage setting. The first stage is registering people with their name, age, chief compliant, etc, and measuring their visual acuity at distance and near.
A 59 year old woman who is -9.00 (unlike the last lady, she can see her hands a few inches from her face but cannot recognize how many fingers you hold up more than 3 feet from her face)-who last had a pair of glasses when she was in high school. Why did she go almost her whole life without replacing them? Honestly, I don’t know: poverty?, prioritizing her children over herself?, adapting to not seeing and forgetting what it was like? Seems unimaginable to me.
MEET THE TEAM.....
Ten years ago I decided to go on my first Third World Eye Care Society eye care project. November 2005 brought me to the beautiful City of Tacloban, Philippines for an eye care mission. I was so unsure of what to expect . Could I survive without the comfortable lifestyle I was privileged to be born into? Being able to make choices each day of what to wear, what to eat, should I have a shower or a nice warm bath? I survived the project and learned to appreciate these most humble kind and grateful people; that would only take one cracker from the big tin so that others in the line would get their share. They showed me me how happy a simple life can be with friends, family and a close community . I feel so privileged to be part of this TWECS Mission along with all of my teammates. Thank you Marina and Derrick for inviting us to help make the world a better place.
Double Trouble Rodger Konkle ” Rodgerito” & Robert Dawson ” Roberto” TWECS Directors
Leonard Campeotto & Brenda Tosoff
Cielo Mabansag Whistler, BC
I was dropped in Tacloban the day of the Paris shootings and during the APEC meetings. As the world resumed it’s usual behaviors of destruction, greed and insensibility we were gearing up to heal those destroyed and victimized in Tacloban. It has been 2 years since SuperStorm Haiyan and it has been 2 years since TWECS has been here last. There were many different journeys that led to this united effort to alleviate a community still rebuilding. There is the 3 Filipinas stories, the single mother story, father and son story, the husband and wife story, the brothers’ story, the husband and husband story, the retired Seniors story, the hair stylist and socialite story and of course The Marina and Derrick story. A Motley crew of strangers dedicated to balance the wrongs in the world armored only with their own two individual hands. We Canadians and Americans tend to live in our bubble of convenience and comfort. We don’t realize that there are people who have to make decisions we don’t ever have to contemplate about. Most of us won’t have to decide whether we should get eyeglasses or put food on the table. Sustenance will always be granted first. Eyeglasses are not just eyeglasses, they are your eyes! We helped a woman who can only see an inch away from her face. Can u imagine living an inch at a time? We got her eyeglasses that let her see 2 feet in front of her. Might not sound much but cooking would be easier for her, walking is probably easier for her and so on and on. She has been freed from her limitations. TWECS Philippines 2015 is riddled with stories like this. So go ahead World, continue your greed and destruction, there are those of us fierce enough to right your wrongs. Goodbye Tacloban and Tanauan, I came to help but I got more than I gave. It has been a pleasure serving you.
FATHER & SON
We are finished day 8 of 10 clinic days. What an opportunity this has been for an adventure with my son Adam. For an old guy like myself who is used to working 4 days a week, we have done 8 straight days! These have been 10 to 12 hr days. To say I am feeling a bit fatigued is an understatement. Two more to go. It has been wonderful to see Adam thrive in a hectic environment, where we have seen and served vision care to over 3000 people so far. I am confident he has made the right choice and will succeed in his choice to become an Optometrist. Back at the hotel we talk about the emotional encounters we both had with various people who we have given the gift of sight back to.
We laugh about other situations we observed with people and fellow team mates. What a great team that has come over. There has been no crankiness, or outbursts, just a will to get everyone seen and taken care of. The people of the Philippines have been very welcoming to us all. We have had a real opportunity to see how the people live and behave. I will hold these memories dear for many years to come. It will be nice to get back to milder temperatures of Canada as we both drip with sweat every day. We have all had great translators helping us who have added both fun and understanding with the people we have helped. I am truly happy for making the choice to be involved with this TWECS mission.
Lyle Myrfield OD Courtenay, BC
MOTHER & DAUGHTER
DEBBIE BRISTOW, LAKE COUNTRY BC
I expected it to be hot and to work hard. This was my first experience with TWECS but I didn’t expect to have my legs swell, my voice go, and in other ways my body fail me. Especially after all the shots, pills and preventive measures taken. I felt invincible.
This work takes a toll on your emotional well being too, I have found myself in tears several times. You want to service those less fortunate, but there will always be more and you can never do enough. The Philippine people are my inspiration to keep going, they love to laugh. The respect shown to the elderly is beautiful. I see a warm and happy people. The kids are just plain adorable.
We see about 500 people a day, most are receiving only reading glasses, but to give a elderly woman a pair of glasses to read her Bible is a worth while pursuit.
THE SMART BROTHERS
Here are we are, in the last days of this project. I can feel that things are starting to wind down, although there is still work to be done. Our inventory is getting depleted ; that is good. There are fewer boxes to pack and carry ; that is also good. There have been ,I trust, many life changing moments. The -27D young lady who had never worn glasses before, and watching Robert create a functional pair of specs for her. The reserved smile of 9 year old Harvey who came to us with 20/160 vision having never worn glasses, and leaving with better than 20/60 acuity. Elconeda ,58,who has been without glasses since typhoon Haiyan receiving a pair of -8/-9 D glasses that gave her renewed hope. Sharing the work and some laughs with our young assistants like Romeo, who is a college student studying environmental science and dreams of joining NASA. If there has been a “life changing moment” on this trip for me, perhaps it was on the bus ride back to the hotel when I realized that the overwhelming emotion I am getting from this journey is not one of sadness, but of hope and inspiration. The people I have met here in the Philippines are still able to smile, experience joy , care for and help one another despite their circumstances.
I saw a picture of a sign that read “Homeless,roofless, not hopeless”. This trip has, in some sense, broken this life down to a simple truth. It feels good to be cared for, and to provide care. It feels good to love and be loved. At this time of year when the people of the Philippines are decorating for Christmas I am reminded of the importance of “faith, hope and love”. Thanks to all the members of our team for your tireless efforts, and thanks to those following our journey on the blog and on Facebook pages for your kind support.
Blessings to all,
DOUG & SHARYN, THE VA COUPLE
It’s time to say farewell to the Phillipines and TWECS 2015. Thank you to the helpers and Sisters of Mary Immaculate for your unwavering support to make the project a success. To my TWECS team mates I have appreciated your humor, smiles, support and help in every way possible.
To the Phillipine people – you have shown me the endless possibilities of love, friendship and a strong faith to overcome a tragedy the magnitude of Haiyan.
Sharyn Higginson Mill Bay BC
DR. HELEN LIM, MEMPHIS TENNESSEE
When we first drove into Tanauan I noticed first how much it has rebuilt. So many houses are now somewhat livable and the tents are gone. Mass grave sites have been memorialized. The town square is alive again with laughter and music in the evenings. Word had spread that we were coming and my sister-in-law already had a list of 40 names that wanted to be seen.
Once we told them the protocol of first come first serve, no one gave us a hassle but instead got up at 4am to get in line with the many other people that decided to show up early (clinic opened at 7am). By the last day, people had started lining up at 1am.
Even if they had to wait all day they were still smiling and happy to receive their new pair of glasses. And all left with new found hope. I have been able to talk to people I haven’t seen in a long time. We were able to service over 2000 people from the town of Tanauan and yet we had to turn over 200 people away which is why I was happy that we decided to add clinic days here. I am proud to come along with my daughter on this mission. It has been an unforgettable experience.