14 March 2016
Hearts beat all around us - all around the world, but some are damaged and some are struggling to beat as they wonder at injustice and cruelty that is dished up to the most vulnerable.
I have just returned from a successful trip to a beautiful archipelago of islands in the centre of The Philippines. Subjected to a hammering from Typhoon Yolanda (Hiyan) in 2013 I went there as first responder and we worked together with the wonderful Samu team. This trip - the 4th since then was to deliver much needed medical services and basic foods to some small remote outlying islands who have nothing - some without toilets or water!
JUST prior to the trip I had been in Calais working in the camp there and my head was all over the place with what was happening there. The Southern part was being destroyed by the local government with little or no provision for many unaccompanied children. Some men had sewn their lips up in a protest going on hunger strike until they were listened to. I came away from a week there in a spin and then dashed half way round the world to do what has over the years become second nature. Deliver medical needs, food, goodwill and more to groups of people who are at the bottom of the poverty ladder. This IS what I do and we have a system in place that works well.
I could not help but compare what was happening daily there with the happenings on the Camps in Calais and Dunkirk and of course half way around Europe too. The days were very different but just as needed. The biggest difference is surely the weather - hard to cool down but MUCH harder to warm up especially when its wet and this is just one of the major differences doing aid work - working in the heat is one thing but cold and wet? much much harder to keep focus and dreadful for the refugees who are already struggling with chaos all around them.
Same same but different...very different. The ready smiles on the Filipino’s faces as they see us coming, the ease at which a table is produced - albeit filthy dirty - but a table never the less, and if we were lucky and there was a generator around, a fan too - what luxury. The temperature averaged around 36% and on one day reached 39%.
We fell into bed each night exhausted but happy that we had made a difference - sending a young girl to Cebu for a second opinion on her badly degraded breast, cleaning and dressing numerous wounds, taking BP’s and advising on further action, identifying a lump in a small girl than needed action and the same for a lady with a breast lump, listening to chests and giving out necessary medication. Visiting the Jail and tending to the inmates. Bread and butter for our Nurse Ruth, and of course a new experience for her - one she lapped up and gave her all to - but real care and concern for the residents who don’t have such ease of access for anything medical. The Hospital on the main Bantayan Island is a hospital in name only as there are no machines there, or indeed personnel to operate them either! All cases that need intervention have to be shipped to Cebu a 6/7 hour journey away! have a heart attack? you may not be lucky enough to survive, have a heamorrage ? again you will likely not survive the journey.
All the while the devastating situation in Europe continues to fill media blogs and pages and I cannot get it out of my mind. I know we have contributed positively to this humanitarian mess but its just not enough. My diary is full but I need to clear some time for Europe - plans are afoot.
.......my heart is damaged but it is beating - it is beating for LIFE!