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Love and Light

Philippines Medical Camp Report

Fifteen medical volunteers from the International Sai Organisation made their way across the oceans from UK and USA to the typhoon affected area of Tacloban in Philippines to offer their medical services as an expression of their Love for Swami. During this Sai Medical Mission there were 15 overseas volunteers (4 from the USA and 11 from the UK), 11 volunteers from Manila (6 staying for the whole duration), 3 helpers from Manila, Bob Singh from USA who had been in Tacloban for 3 months and sister Liz staying at a coordinating centre known as ‘Sai Home’. The medical team included Paediatricians, Pain Management specialist, Psychiatrist, General Practitioners, Nurses, Pharmacist, Psychologists. Other general volunteers had joined from different professions and skill groups. The team number unsurprisingly was restricted due to limited accommodation that was available.

The team went to remote villages (“Barangay”) of Tacloban to spread Swami’s love.

On arrival in Manila we were first greeted by the Sai family of volunteers from Manila who hosted us in their beautiful homes and a few of them accompanied us to serve the masses in Tacloban.

Sai Devotees in Manila

Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda) was a powerful tropical cyclone that devastated portions of South East Asia, particularly the Philippines, on November 8, 2013. It was the deadliest typhoon on record that struck the Philippines, killing at least 6,268 people in that country alone. According to UN officials, about 11 million people were affected and many were left homeless. In Tacloban, Leyte, the terminal building of Tacloban Airport was destroyed by a 5.2 m (17 ft) storm surge which touched the second story of the building.

The storm surge caused widespread devastation to Tacloban City, especially in San Jose, with many buildings being destroyed, trees knocked over or broken, and cars piled up. The low-lying areas on the eastern side of Tacloban city were hardest hit, with some areas completely washed away. It is stated that approximately 90 percent of the city had been destroyed or damaged. Ninety percent of the structures were either destroyed or damaged

Devastation caused by Typoon Haiyan

Arrival in Tacloban

We departed for Tacloban in the early hours on 4 April 2014 and were warmly received at Sai Home by our hosts on arrival, Mr Bob Singh from USA and sister Liz from Tacloban; sister Liz unfortunately had lost her husband in the typhoon. Both Bob and Liz had been working tirelessly for the people in Tacloban for the previous three months spreading Swami’s love and actively participating in Narayan Seva.

The International Sai Organisation and the Sai Organisation in Manila had been coordinating relief efforts since the disaster. They continue to work tirelessly providing health care, Narayan seva and other support as needed to the villages. The volunteers accompanied the team to the affected sites and helped in the organizing the camp, manning the registration desk, arranging the interpreters, helping in the pharmacy and all other allied departments.

The team would leave Sai Home around 7am. Each day the team would travel to do a different camp site and at times, two camp sites would be covered. This was rather challenging logistically and from a planning perspective. A devotee from Manila had provided a van. This was used to transport medicines and other general items.

The group included representatives from Muslim, Christian and Sai devotees. The camp would begin every day with a Christian prayer, Muslim prayer and Gayatri Mantra. Inspite of different background, the group showed great sense of unity and worked together to alleviate the suffering of people traumatically affected by the Typhoon. With Swami’s Divine Grace, the team would screen, treat and arrange for further care where necessary for patients who were visiting in hundreds from surrounding villages every day. The team of volunteers provided relief, explained symptoms and empathised with fellow brothers and sisters who had lost everything and who were trying to rebuild their lives again.

Hygiene Team

During weekends, young adults from Manila joined the medical team who worked with the patients, mainly children, teaching them about hygiene, the importance of brushing teeth and spending some time playing art games with them and so on.

Registration team

Interpreters - our voices!

Queues waiting patiently to be seen

Our Psychologists from USA patiently counseled and taught various de-stressing exercises to the affected adults and children.

The army provided protection for us, particularly in remote areas where there was fear of guerrilla warfare. They were touched by the selfless loving service of the volunteers and came forward to help us in every possible way.

Assistance provided by the Army

The holy camp site in a church

The doctors identified some critical patients at makeshift camp sites which were located in little sheds, churches and community halls. Crowds would wait patiently for treatment well after dusk despite no electricity during these times! For some needy patients, immediate care was provided including drainage of large abscesses troubling little children.

On one of the days at the end of a camp, a patient walked in with severe cardiac problems. He was screened and his symptoms were explained to his uncle who was deeply touched by our loving service. The uncle had tears in his eyes after he saw the love and attention they received from the doctor. He remarked with tears in his eyes,” Whether the surgery will take place or not, we are happy. Thank you for your love and patience in explaining it all to us....”

The Cardiac patient

Patients with hyperactive thyroid disease needing treatment thought they had stress and were correctly diagnosed and treated.

Another patient was a” blue baby” needing urgent surgery.

Medical Treatment

Medical camps were set up across 6 days, some days included packing up and moving to second camp site in the afternoon. Before the camp, pre packing of medicine was held, as well as going through all the medicine stock in the Sai Home stock room. So clearly lot of planning was required. During the 6 days, 2874 patients were treated of which 1276 were adults and 1275 were children. In addition, there was another camp where registration was unclear, an estimated 1100 patients were treated.

Apart from free medicine being handed out, the following items were also distributed to patients and families:

- New clothes
- Dehydration drink “Paedialyte” or crystals
- Energy drink “Ensure”
- Itch creams (baby & adult)
- Plasters
- Colouring books & crayons for children
- Soap bars – part of the hygiene pack
- Tooth brush & tooth paste – part of the hygiene pack
- Toys

The nursing teams helped with wound dressings, GPs with the blood pressure and sugar tests, the pharmacy team in preparing & dispensing medicine, patients with understanding about their medicines and use etc.

The patients we came across were resilient despite going through such a catastrophic event, where they lost not only their belongings but their family members and friends. They had immense faith in Lord Jesus and one of the patients remarked that this was just a test from the Lord.

The indomitable spirit of the affected inspired us to work tirelessly for them.

When dreams come true...

Dr Yamuna Ekambaram, Paediatrician from USA had a dream in December 2013, immediately after the typhoon where Swami was standing with many little Phillipino children who were calling her and her son for help saying, “Swami is with us every day!”.It was then that she decided she would want to go and serve in Yolanda, Tacloban.

The physicians and our dedicated pain specialist helped to alleviate chronic pain for the many. On one occasion a patient who had been deaf since the typhoon started to hear again!

Paediatric Team

Pharmacy

The pharmacy team had a considerable challenge due to the nature of the make shift camp. Medicines had to be off-loaded at every camp site. Planning of the type of medicine required, stacking in the van and so on, was vital. The pharmacy team worked tirelessly dispensing several hundred medicines everyday to patients. The host team were a great help to the pharmacy team.

Dr Nikila Pandya
Paediatrician, UK