I had volunteers Nurse Sue Mosley and her husband Shaun along this time.
We were denied excess baggage from Philippines Airlines despite the intervention of the Consul Hugo Van Jeijen – only to find on arrival at the airport that 60 kilos excess had been logged onto the system! Very frustrating.
This trip would prove easier to get going since the channels were already open and my fantastic guide, Randy, had purchased the rice prior to my arrival so all we had to do was the supermarket sweep.We did it and soon loaded up the truck to its brim. 12 tonnes of rice.
Our days consisted mostly of food distribution alongside Samu and the medical team – Sue joined the 2 girls, Carmen a nurse and Mariepaz the Dr, while Shaun and I distributed the food and then helped with crowd control with the waiting queues, opened boxes of meds and generally gofered for the girls.In Bantayan there are 3 Municipalities with a Mayor each and with in each there are several Baranguys with a Captain to lead.
Some Captains are very proactive and honest and others are not……we tended to work in the areas where they were most helpful and eased our path in – although we did our best wherever we could.
We visited 2 islands – the most northerly slightly larger one called Kinartacan was an hour and a half’s boat ride away into very deep water – we took 100 parcels and 100 rice bags with us and took a local boat – the ShelterBox team who wanted to do assessments on their original distribution on the island came with us.We found the island had been badly hit but there had been a reasonable amount of aid in there and some rebuilding had started.
Their biggest problem is water – there is NO fresh water on the island except for collecting rainwater which is fine when it rains – but it can also go for long periods with no rain for weeks.
Sue started to help in an already running clinic – I couldn’t understand why there were people outside saying they could not be treated. It turned out the group of medics were7th day Adventists and if you were not a member of the church they would not treat you.We up sticks and left to do our own thing. I will not be bound by either religion or politics that mean some folks miss out!Round the island on motos in convoy to survey the damage we set up a little clinic on the beach and Sue saw around 30 patients.
We continued on over the next few days holding clinics with Samu and food distribution and if they were busy we did our own thing.On the last day we went to yet another island – this time very small – they had had no aidSave for a few Islamic aid tents that had arrived 5 weeks after the Typhoon.
This place was in desperate need of immediate help. Travelling with Samu once more we piledonto rickety small boats and sailed the 2 kilometers across a very shallow piece of water.
The locals were thrilled to see us and said they had had no food aid at all and no medical attention either. A look around was shocking – they had been all but wiped out – 100% oft he houses was badly damaged or raised to the ground. Again no water except bought over in cans from the mainland. The clinic was very well attended and the girls dressed various nasty wounds and other ailments. Back on the boat around to the other side so Samu could see a 16 year old boy with TB before we left for Bantayan again. Straight back to the Town Hall to load up with supplies for the prison. I had earlier gained permission from the Mayor to visit with both food and to attend to any medical needs.
This was a first no one had ever been into the jail with help before. I rode there in the Mayors car with the other following.
We were curious to see in the inmates would be allowed to keep the food.One expectations of what we would find were not great – given the terrible jails I havebeen in – just viewing you understand – I was just hoping it would be like some I have seen.We were welcomed by all the warders – suited and booted and very respectful of both the Mayor and us too.
The jail was very small with 117 inmates – more than half on remanded some of those had been there 9 years!
They were all bought out into the yard and crouched not looking at us – I really wanted to break the ice. The meds team set up shop and we were soon seeing virtually all the men and the 3 women who were there.
Next we know and the Governor asked me if I would like to see them dance and sing – mixed thoughts on this – I didn’t want it to be a humiliating experience but far from it.
They all came into the yard and danced a sort of Zumba routine – their daily exercise we were told! They seemed to be happy and so I joined in to lighten the mood – never was any good at dancing but it made them all laugh anyway. Determined to make the experience fun I joked around with the Governor and some of the men.
They wheeled outA singing inmate – with a fabulous voice – they are big into Kariokee there! Next we had a singer warder – all frustrated popstars I think. Most of the inmates are there for drug dealing and petty theft – there was a pregnant woman who had been in for a month and her baby is due next month – so sad – she was 19 and in for petty theft – apparently she was hungry and stole some food!
We gave the ladies a bag with some shampoo etc as well as the food and the pregnant lady, some things for her baby too.
I managed to persude the boss to give me a tour inside – while the others were doing the clinic – 8 cells – one for the women – one for the gay men and 6 with 18 in each cell – around 15 feet by 12 with one toilet in each cell – NOT great as they would be like sardines sleeping on the floor. However there was no bad smell – it was clean and apart from being thin and a little palid – it could have been a great deal worse – I whispered to one inmate and asked if they beat him and his response was ‘only if we do bad things’.
They was a speech and I was presented with a picture thanking me for delivering aid to them.
It was a humbling experience for us all.
This has been a whirlwind 5 months, and I could not have done any of this without my amazing volunteers both here in Guernsey and those in the Philippines too, the support of The Bailiffs fund, together with several individuals, who gave large chunks of money to this appeal.
But the accolades must also be thrown out to the incredible Guernsey public who consistently give both to my charities and many many others too.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!