By Lore Devlamynck

25-31 January 2016

This day I left for Bacolod City, where the office of NIHIP (Negros Island Health Integrated Program) is. I was so excited to meet the people from this organisation. At the same time, I was a bit nervous because this is where I would stay for five months.

During the orientation, they gave an overview of the schedule and told me that it is flexible. I said I want to learn acupuncture and herbal medicines. They can all arange this for me and I am so happy because I want learn to the fullest. Also I asked about medical missions, but they said it is very expensive to arrange one. Luckily, there are medical missions coming up on the 20th and 26th of March. The shedule also involves a lot of travelling. On the 27th of January I will go to the urban poor and stay there for three days. I think it is nice to do it like that, but I am also afraid that I will not have enough time to really make friends. I was told though that I will spend two weeks and the rest of my free time in Toboso. On the other hand, I think the short stays are also good because I will get to see many communities and learn a lot.

On the 27th, I left for my first urban poor exposure: in Purok Punta Taytay. I was pretty nervous because it would be the first experience in this internship with a really poor community. Me and nanay Cato left the office at 9 am and took the jeepney to this community. Nanay told me about the demolition there. The houses of 59 families were destroyed and they had to move somewhere else. They now stay in little houses they build by themselves. There is almost no electricity and they live very primitively. It was like I was back in the middle ages. After the demolition the landlord made them move to another place, with each house measuring only 54m². That’s not a lot if you see that many families have a lot of children. The people of this community are very strong because they had a small victory, they won some more land. Also during the demolition they fought back. I actually met one of the women who fought back and at that time she was pregnant. I feel a very strong respect for them and if I think about this unfair situation I get tears in my eyes.

The next day, we woke up at 4am to go to the fishport, to meet fishers who had been out all night in the sea. Fishing is one of the most important sources of income. Now I could see with my eyes that it is really hard work to be a fisherman.

On our way home, we saw a medical mission going on by Korean students. I asked one of them what the common health problems of the people were. Almost everyone has tuberculosis, hypertension (he said it is because of the salty food), asthma and respiratory diseases. Also a lot of children have parasite infections and bronchitis (because of the ‘cold’ weather). The adults have a lot of issues with their eyes – cataract, eye infections, etc. I was already observing this when I was in the fishport. The medical mission offered some minor surgery like tooth extraction. While watching, I asked myself: what after this? They give them medications, but what if the medications are finished? I mean the patients go back to their home situations that are so bad. They will suffer the same health back. And also in a medical mission they can’t really help the ones who have a chronic health problem like cancer or diabetes.

Then we went to the mangroves. These are a kind of trees that are really important for the ecosystem and biodiversity (like birds and fishes). These trees are also important if there is a typhoon to protect the people, because they suck a lot of water. The poor people go there to plant them. They don’t get money. Normally the goverment has a budget for this, but the money got stuck somewhere (corruption).

After we visited the mangroves me and Joyjoy went to try some oysters, first time for me; another great expierience. We talked with the lady who sold us the oysters. She wants to go abroad, just like Joyjoy. There are a lot of people here who want to go abroad but are scared, because a lot of the Filipinos who go abroad get harassed.

After this we went back to the community and painted the CR with a lot children. That was a fun ending moment before going back to the office for rest and reading my weekend book.

PSET’s Internship Program kicks off

As we welcome the new year, we also welcome Lore Devlamynck, first to arrive of the four interns from Belgium. Her arrival marks the start of PSET’s internship program, thanks to our European partners Amihan Trade and Services and Howest University.

Internships are part of PSET’s immersion program whereby students are given opportunities to practice and hone their skills and knowledge where they are needed the most– in poor, marginalized communities. During the program, they get to see the beauty of the Philippines, the harsh reality faced by its people, and above all, the wide range of actions that people do to make it a better place. As the program helps interns fulfill academic requirements, it also helps communities by deploying people to help them realize their needs.

Lore, a nurse doing her post-graduate study in international cooperation, is now learning about the people’s health situation and the community-based health program of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) and Negros Island-wide Health Integrated Program for Community Development (NIHIPCD).