Philippine hospitality during 2019's mission
For the first time in Vision For All’s (VFA’s) history we made a project trip to the Philippines. We traveled with 3 assistants and 4 optometrists from Sweden, with more than 6000 eyeglasses to Manila.
Due to some short notice changes in the Laguna-Quezon region we started our mission in the barangay (neighbourhood) of Bulakin I, Dolores. 3 days were organized and we were able to help a little bit more than 1000 people in Bulakin and the neighboring barangays. During our stay in Bulakin the group got to experience Filipino hospitality first hand, by being invited to live with barangay secretary, Beth Anago and her family. Also a first introduction to the Filipino culture of rooster breeding was made by Roger Anago when showing his chicken farm in the garden.
After a few days the trip went south, passing with ferry between Batangas and Calapan to enter the island of Mindoro. Here the Philippine hospitality continued and our driver, the local Mindoreño Angel De Torres and his family opened their house for the team. After washing up in a nearby river and loading energy from the fruits growing in the area, the mission started in Sampagita, Victoria for 2 days. Almost 650 people were helped during these workdays at the barangay hall and courtyard.
After a 2-3 hour drive south we ended up in Roxas, at the east coast of Mindoro. Here we executed a total of 6 days, where 2 of them were half days in smaller areas with about 165 patients each day, one in the fishing village Dalahican and another one in the forest village Lizap, with its many indigenous inhabitants. In New Dangay, Roxas we were were able to help more than 370 people.
Thanks to a good planning we were able to execute 3 major workdays in the gymnasium of John Paul college in Roxas. Here many of the senior citizens were invited in advance and a total of almost 1200 people were examined. During these days we had the great honor to invite a local colleague and optometrist, Cristina F. Dela Luna, to work alongside with us.
VFA team examined a total of 3622 people and donated 5177 pairs of eyeglasses which has been given to VFA by companies, other organizations and the people of Sweden. This is a great number of people, considering that a VFA project was made in the area for the first time, and a few changes came up with short notice. This good result comes from hard work by a well experienced VFA-team, but also from many good hearted Filipinos who have all been working hard to organize and make it possible to help their own people.
Almost 85% of the patients were in the age where reading glasses starting to be needed, from 36 years and up. 55% of the eyeglasses were given for near tasks, such as reading, sewing, cooking and preparing fishing gear. About 40% of the glasses were given for distance use, such as watching tv, driving motorbike and recognizing people far away.
Based on the financial contribution to this trip the cost per examined patient was about $3. If we make an assumption that an average pair of eyeglasses would be approximated to have a value of $50 (when buying new), the fictive economic value of this mission would be more than $180 000!
-Although the value to each individual is priceless!
The need of protection from the sun is essential in a country like the Philippines, where the sun is strong and a lot of work is done outside. For this project we could have brought and donate thousands of sunglasses but since this amount of glasses won’t fit into our luggage we had to limit the donation of sunglasses to mainly the people with medical reasons, for example cataract and different stages of pterygium. More than 200 sunglasses, suncovers and clip-ons were donated.
Higher astigmatism or differences between the eyes
Some people had high astigmatism or different powers between the eyes and already having this corrected in their own glasses. To these people we donated an empty frame for them to use the next time they would buy new glasses at the local optical store, only needing to pay for new lenses.
About 25 patients had suspected high astigmatism or other differences which had never been corrected with eyeglasses before and therefore these patients got an empty frame from VFA and are going to have the lenses produced with the kind help of Fortalesa - Dela Luna Optical clinic in Roxas. The cost for these specially made eyeglasses is solidary financed through voluntary donations, that the patients who were able to do so, donated to VFA’s work.
Some patients with suspected eye disease were also referred to the Fortalesa - Dela Luna clinic for further referral to the ophthalmologist.
The overall impression is that VFA did very good job, helping more people than expected and the same amount of people as on missions where we have worked many times before.
The financial contribution, to this specific project, were made by private sponsors, Memira and Dahlgrens optik. The biggest contribution is, as always, made by all the hours of hard work done by VFA’s all voluntary members.
VFA sends great gratitude to all people involved making it possible to help 3622 people with a better eyesight and improving their life and opportunities!
A personal thanks to De Torres - Maylas family in Dangay for making this whole trip possible, for helping us with translation, transportation and organizing, especially Leticia who have been making a lot of prearranging through connections with friends, family and different barangay officials. A special thanks to Estoy for accompanying us for the whole trip, assisting us with handing out the glasses and most of all for making sure that we always had delicious food on the table! Also a special thanks to Leny for organizing, making sure that we always had coffee, clean clothes and for the yummy buko salad!
We want to thank Rico Adriano, chairman of Bulakin for kindly inviting us with short notice and arranging for us to work for 3 whole days in the barangay hall and also for showing us the beautiful mountain landscape in the area.
We thank the family of Beth and Roger Anago for opening their home and heart for us.
Thanks to Rolando Maylas for providing beds in Laguna and for coordinating for about 90 extra people to get help in the Roxas area. Also a big thanks to Marc Agustin for being the middle hand and helping to introduce and coordinate with the contacts in the Laguna-Quezon area.
We are happy to thank De Torres family in Victoria for support and opening up 3 of their homes, specially for us! A special thanks to Angel and to Roberto, our drivers, for bringing us safely around the Philippines!
We thank barangay captain Gil Gusi for inviting us to the barangay hall of New Dangay and for being flexible with rearranging the dates when we all of a sudden had double workdays planned.
Thanks to Anoa Mindorensis Civica Societas and the sponsoring from Leo Cusi and Manny Andaya for the workdays in John Paul college. Thanks to Patrick Maquiran for initiating and preparing these contacts and a big thanks to Kim Villaverde and her whole crew for the very effective work days in the school. Thank you for making sure that the Swedes stayed happy with coffee all the time!
A big thanks to all the barangay officials who have been arranging for us to arrive and supplying us with lunch and snacks in the barangays of:
Bulakin I, Dolores, Quezon
Sampagita, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro
Dalahican, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro
New Dangay, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro
Lizap, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro
A special thanks to our new friend and colleague Cristina F. Dela Luna for working hard and voluntary without hesitating, together with the Swedish team and also making extra eye-exams in order to prepare the specially made eyeglasses after our mission has ended.
Thanks to Jocy Montesa for preparing our visit in your town, Lizap and for a great lunch.
A thanks to Lennart Jansson at the Swedish Embassy for providing VFA with a certificate letter and thanks to Katarina Stintzing for arranging a “fika” for direct contact with the embassy.
The last and biggest thanks to the VFA-team, Anna Doj, Marie Andersson, Tullan Willén, Kjell Gunnarsson, Ingvar Gardell, Jörn Nielsen and the short contribution of Marlene Ehrs for the hard work you put up with on this trip! You all stayed happy and strong even with some extra workdays and spontaneous changes.
I am thankful for the great success of this first time mission to the Philippines, hoping for it to be many more opportunities together with our new friends in the Philippines!