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Friday, February 26, 2010

U.S. Forces Assist in Treating 1,000 Patients During Zamboanga MEDCAP

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - Numerous governmental organizations, educational intuitions, non-profit organizations and military doctors from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines teamed up to treat more than 1,000 patients at a Medical Civic Action Project in Barangay (community) Taluksangay Feb. 24.

As with many regions in Mindanao, local residents here cannot afford medical services. Missions such as these may be the only opportunity in the year they will have to seek medical treatment.

The organizations that came together to conduct this mission consider it an honor to support the residents in Talulsangay and give back to the community.

“This is so wonderful to see what we can do here. It is a great feeling to help our people in need,” said Doy Heredia, co-founder of Lingkod Timog, a U.S. based Filipino charity group.

Drawing upon established relationships within the Filipino community, Lingkod Timog spearheaded the MEDCAP. Founded in 2004, the group conducts yearly medical campaigns aimed at the Philippines most underprivileged and impoverished residents. They also strive to strengthen relations between the United States and the Philippines.

More than 30 volunteers from all over the world came to Mindanao, coordinating with more than 25 agencies to conduct not only this MEDCAP, but a three-day medical mission in Southern Mindanao visiting the Barangays of Sangali (Aplaya) and Bato in Lamitan, Basilan.

Other agencies that participated included the Philippine National Police, Philippine Medical Association, Ciudid Medical Hospital, Philippine Women’s Medical Women’s Association and Mindanao Central Sanitarium.

Held at the Hadjii Abdulla Nuno Memorial High School, the patients received a variety of services, such as 50 circumcisions, 150 tooth extractions, numerous check-ups and vaccinations, and 25 minor surgeries such a cyst removals.

Lingkod Timog volunteers also enlisted the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. The AFP provided several nurses, doctors, and Marines from Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command provided convoy security. In addition, JSOTF-P donated medications and two U.S. Navy Corpsmen assisted with dental extractions and minor surgeries.

“Working with so many organizations that have just been so instrumental in making this happen has been such a wonderful experience,” said U.S. Army Capt. Luis Rivera-Fonseca, a member of Civil Affairs Team 716 from the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, Alpha Company with headquarters in Fort Bragg, N.C.

“This is just effective, well-integrated Civil Military Operations (CMO). It is humbling to witness this group of ordinary people doing such extraordinary things for their own people. Look around; here is the military, the government, and the non-government sectors working together to achieve a common goal,” he said.

Medical missions such as this are a cornerstone of the Armed Forces of the Philippines CMO. Run completely by the AFP, the military in Mindanao is demonstrating their devotion to the people and enlisting the help of other agencies that are also donating their time.

For example, Ateneo de Zamboanga University College of Nursing had several students conducting the registration of the patients, greatly aiding in the success of the mission.

“We are so very happy and so very blessed to have this medical mission today. This is a great help to us, for not only our students, but for those in the community as well,” said Elena F. Balan, principal of the high school.

“Most of our people cannot afford doctors or medications, so now we have a chance to give them free check-ups,” she said.

Successes such as these are a testament to the Filipino's commitment to serving the community. While hospital care and other medical services may be too expensive for many of the locals, organizations do what they can here to bridge the gap and provide for the populace.

“We are so grateful and thankful to have so much help in putting together this mission. We have such a big opportunity to help the people here,” said Saida L. Abdurasid, a social studies teacher at the school.

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