Isle volunteers help 1,300 in Philippines
The Aloha Medical Mission offers services to landslide survivors
Aloha Medical Mission volunteers provided medical treatment and mental health counseling to 1,372 patients during a mission to the Philippines after the Guinsaugon landslide in Leyte.
Dr. Vernon Ansdell, veteran volunteer, led 14 doctors, nurses and lay people and Congress of Visayan Organizations members on the five-day trip.
There is "potential for some good things to come out of this tragedy," said Ansdell, who specializes in internal and tropical medicine.
The key thing will be development of an ongoing relationship by the Aloha Medical Mission with people in the devastated area, he said. "We're hoping to do that, to go back in that area and run clinics, maybe with COVO's help."
Ansdell, who has been on six or seven missions to different countries, believes many of the Guinsaugon survivors probably received medical attention for the first time from the Aloha Medical Mission volunteers.
In an interview after his return yesterday, Ansdell said the group worked out of the Rural Health Clinic in St. Bernard, about six miles from where the landslide killed more than 1,000 people.
Three evacuation centers were set up in schools in St. Bernard and another town nearby, and children were going to classrooms in tents, he said.
He said four Aloha Medical Mission volunteers stayed in a room in the school; others stayed in peoples' houses, and a few stayed in a little hotel in town.
People heard they were coming and were waiting to see them, Ansdell said.
They treated 1,083 children and adults and did 91 minor surgeries.
"We saw a whole range of things, a lot of respiratory diseases, some diarrhea, some skin problems," Ansdell said.
He said a lot of people had underlying blood pressure trouble, and thyroid disease is a big problem in the region.
A mental health social worker with the group provided counseling in 198 individual or group sessions for people who lost homes and families in the disaster.
The people still are very much in shock, Ansdell said. "Some of the stories are just incredible. People lost literally everything, all their family, friends, their house -- everything is gone."
He said the medical team saw survivors from the buried village and several thousand other people evacuated from other villages threatened by landslides.
Efforts are under way to build homes and resettle them in safer areas by June or July, but the people do not know how they are going to live miles away and care for their rice fields or other crops, Ansdell said. The Aloha Medical Mission has had many missions to the Philippines, but none to Leyte island until now.
Congress of Visayan Organizations President Margarita Hopkins organized various fundraisers that collected more than $28,000 for the landslide survivors. The money went to Aloha Medical Mission to purchase medical supplies and equipment for the March 13 mission to the Philippines.
Aloha Medical Mission has sent more than $30,000 worth of medical supplies and medicine for the rehabilitation efforts, said Executive Director Butch Dela Cruz.
A tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, the Aloha Medical Mission provides free health care and education in Hawaii and overseas.
It has sent 3,000 doctors, nurses and lay volunteers on 77 missions to 10 countries since it was founded in 1983, Dela Cruz said. They pay their own transportation and expenses.