A bucket is all that Rochelle Restauro’s family owns. Inside are a few articles of clothing and her children’s school bag. Wrapped in a black garbage bag, it is easy to mistake it for trash. But for three years, nobody has tried throwing them away.
San Nicolas, after all, has seen a lot of poor individuals who turned the streets into their homes; Rochelle’s family is just one of them.
Since her husband was imprisoned for drug charges three years ago, Rochelle was thrown out of the room they were renting in Tondo, Manila. She has been living along the sidewalk outside the Justice Jose Abad Santos Mother and Child Maternity Hospital in San Nicolas since.
Rochelle and her children namely Charlie, 11, Mark Archie, 7, and Russel, 1, sleep on a thin sleeping mat. Normally, Rochelle is able to lend money to buy their daily food. She pays them back as soon as she receives her income as a beneficiary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) cash-for-work program.
But on September 24, the family could only afford a cup of coffee and bread, which they shared between them for lunch.
Apart from food, basic necessities are hard to come by for homeless people. When they cannot afford to buy bottled water, Rochelle would get some from the faucet of the hospital’s comfort room. Because of this, Rochelle’s children often suffer from diarrhea, colds, and coughs.
Whenever they fell ill, Rochelle worries a lot for her children. Hence, when she heard about Tzu Chi Foundation holding its 227th medical mission in Pedro Guevarra Elementary School, located just across their usual spot, Rochelle brought her children to be checked.
After a consultation with a member of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), it was found out Russel has pneumonia and intestinal disorders. He was given medicines to allay his pain.
“It means a lot to us that Tzu Chi conducted this medical mission here. I was able to receive my son’s medicines for free so that he can be treated [of his illness],” says Rochelle, 28.
Going where the needy are
This is the third time that the Pedro Guevarra Elementary School allowed Tzu Chi to hold the medical mission inside the school premises.
According to Tzu Chi volunteer Richard Tan, there is a need to conduct the mission in the said school as it is near the slum areas, including the biggest slum community in Manila – Parola Compound.
“The patients can just walk to get here. They don’t have to pay for transportation fare anymore,” says Tan. “Master teaches us to go to the poor and the needy. If they cannot come to us, we have to go to them so that they can receive medical attention.”
Meanwhile, P. Guevarra Elementary School not only let Tzu Chi use the school ground as venue, its teachers and faculty staff, including its principal Edita Lopez even helped in setting up everything a day before the event.
“Tzu Chi caters to the less fortunate of this country and most especially here in District 1. This is a noble advocacy and we appreciate it very much,” says Principal Lopez.
Tzu Chi’s affinity with the said school runs deep. The school often serves as an evacuation center whenever a calamity strikes the Manila area. Hence, Tzu Chi often conducts its relief operations here.
Through both parties’ cooperation this time, Tzu Chi and P. Guevarra served 1, 396 patients across eight departments namely: General Medicine, Pediatrics, Dental, Ophthalmology, Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT), Traditional Chinese Medicine, Therapy, and Minor Surgery.
Free and complete medical service
For the first time, Tzu Chi’s medical mission also provided free ultrasound services.
Volunteer perinatologist Dr. Elizabeth Supezana says regular ultrasound is important for pregnant women. However, because of poverty, many pregnant women were not able to afford such service.
“Some of the patients who came here today have their bellies all bloated but it’s the first time for them to have their ultrasound,” says Dr. Supezana. “But actually, it’s important that during the first trimester, the mother has to undergo ultrasound already, and on the second trimester there should be an ultrasound to check if the baby has congenital defects. On the third trimester, we need the ultrasound to check if the baby is developing according to the stage of pregnancy.”
In private hospitals, ultrasound costs a minimum of Php900, while in clinics the price is around Php500.
Pamela Joy Dampios, 22, is on her ninth month of pregnancy for her third child. Her doctor has requested her to undergo ultrasound a few days ago. Fortunately, she heard that Tzu Chi is offering free ultrasounds, she immediately went to avail of the service.
“Money is difficult right now and sometimes when I ask to be scheduled for a free ultrasound in the hospital, it takes a long time before I get the result. I might have given birth to my child already before I get the result,” says Pamela.
“Here, ultrasound is free. The service is good and fast. They also gave us free medicines and vitamins. There are many doctors and they are all kind,” she adds.
Another patient, Mary Ann David, lauds Tzu Chi’s medical mission.
The 38-year-old Parola resident complained of recurring headache, muscle pain, and toothache. At the medical mission, she benefitted from free consultations and treatment not only in one department but three!
“Thank you for bringing this opportunity to us so that we can avail of our medical needs such as dental extraction, receive medicines, and undergo acupuncture treatment. I was able to receive these services in one day and all for
free!” she says.
Patients coming from the poorest communities form a line outside the Pedro Guevarra Elementary School as they wait for the medical mission to begin. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi’s medical mission opened a Dental department which served 175 patients. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Volunteer dentists of Tzu Chi treat patients suffering from dental problems. The Dental Department provided services such as dental extraction, filling, and cleaning. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Hoping to bring complete service to the patients, Tzu Chi also dispensed free medicines. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Because of poverty, many poor patients cannot afford to buy their needed medicines. At Tzu Chi’s medical mission, they received not only free consultations but medicines to treat their illnesses. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
For the first time, Tzu Chi provided free ultrasound service for Obstetrics and Gynecology patients. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Aware that many poor pregnant women are not able to have their ultrasound because it is too expensive, Tzu Chi brought two ultrasound machines and offer the service for free during the organization’s 227th medical mission. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Dr. Elizabeth Supezana hands the ultrasound photo to a patient who availed of the service. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
A Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) acupuncture practitioner serve patients at the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Department. 34 patients benefitted from Acupuncture treatment during the mission. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Mary Ann David avails of the Acupuncture treatment to ease the numbness she feels on her fingers. Apart from TCM, she has also benefitted from the services at the Dental and General Medicine Departments. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Rochelle Restauro’s family stays on a sidewalk in San Nicolas, Manila. For three years, the streets have been home to Rochelle and her children. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】