Message from Dr. Zarate

Letter from the WMR Ambassador of Health for Asia-Pacific: DR. DAVID LEE ZARATE

 

BLAZING A NEW AND UNTESTED TRAIL: PEACE THROUGH ACCESSIBLE HEALTH CARE

The Amazing Story Of The How WORLD MEDICAL RELIEF Has Become The Unintended And Uninvited Instrument Of Peace In A Troubled Region.

WMR PROVIDES HOPE AND CONFIDENCE IN A TROUBLED AREA.

PIKIT is a Filipino word which literally mans “closed eyes”. It is also the name of a town in the province of Cotabato, in the troubled Southern Philippines. Pikit is remembered as the site of the 2003 battle between the Philippine Army and a large and fully armed separatist group. The people in the town start disappearing into their homes even while the sun is still up. Pikit has a reputation of being dangerous on account of the ongoing struggle between the government forces and some still uncontrolled armed groups. The situation seems to give meaning to the name PIKIT because the people close their eyes early to go to sleep to avoid the dangers outside the home.

PIKIT is hardly a zone of peace if there is such a thing. And yet, one structure stands out as the BUILDING OF PEACE where both sides of the armed conflict can come and find help in their time of need. In fact, the activity in this building is contributing a lot to making PIKIT a real ZONE OF PEACE.

The building is a hospital. It is not an ordinary hospital. It is, if we were to give it a name, a hospital of peace. It is viewed with respect by everyone. It is a WMR-equipped hospital. To protect his identity, let’s call him Dr. E. He has become a popular figure in the area, respected by the opposite sides in the armed conflict. He is a busy doctor performing around 40 surgical operations in a month. One day, Dr E’s vehicle was “borrowed”, euphemism for taken by force, by some armed group. In the morning, the vehicle was returned, gas tank filled to the brim and with a short note of apology. The armed group did not recognize that it was his vehicle.

I mention PIKIT and Dr. E because Dr. E represents the kind of Doctors who have stuck it out in the most dangerous places and they do not feel abandoned or inadequate because equipment and instruments donated by WMR have raised the stature and the capacity of the hospital to respond to the growing needs of the people in the area. DR E is one of the many unique doctors who have opted to stay in their respective places to practice medicine, their confidence bolstered by the generous donations from WMR.

MORE PLACES WITH HOSPITALS OF PEACE.

Let’s click off names of places, the mention which creates fear in the hearts of many people in the Philippines. Maguindanao (where in November of 2009, 53 people were killed in the one of the most brazen case of massacres in the Philippines), Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Lanao and many others. These are places known for the fear that strangers feel when they pass through. The armed conflict in Mindanao has raged since the 70s and has already claimed around 120,000 lives with an estimated 2 to 3 billion dollars in economic losses, resulting to the deepening of the sense of hopelessness and lack of peace in the hearts of the people.

Top government officials (Governors, Congressmen, Mayors) in these places are now using, probably without fully realizing it, a new but untested approach to reducing if not totally eradicating armed conflicts in their areas: PEACE THROUGH ACCESSIBLE HEALTH CARE. In an unprecedented and completely unexpected turn of events, these top officials are putting up hospitals and asking WMR to partner with them by donating equipment that they otherwise cannot buy with the limited resources under their control.

In the long and troubled history of Philippine local governance, local leaders usually use their position, power and influence to secure benefits in their personal favor. Many ask for their share of benefits from project but will not give their share.

favor. Many ask for their share of benefits from project but will not give their share to any project. Any project entering the area under their control will invariably provide a contribution to the incumbent official through a fixed percentage of the cost of the project. Trying to make an appointment to talk to a top local government official is an arduous undertaking usually resulting to a failure. WMR’s experience is the one sole exception to this. All these top officials, feared by many and avoided by some, have approached the WMR coordinator with a sincere request: Please help us secure the assistance of WMR for our hospitals. Your Philippine Coordinator has been invited to meet with these officials in places traditionally labeled as “troubled and dangerous” and the result was been an increased ability on the part of WMR to help and an increased sense of hope on the part of the officials and their constituents that something not tainted with corruption can change the condition of the people. Peace through accessible and efficient health care. No contamination from corruption. Selfish interests have surprisingly disappeared in the whole process. To give evidence of their sincerity, many of these officials have even pledged to help raise funds for WMR. This is a truly unprecedented event in the history of Philippine local governance. It would seem that based on what is happening, WMR can also be viewed as an acronym for Wisdom, Meaning, Renewal.

A NEW AND UNINTENDED ALLIANCE OF PEACEMAKERS: WMR, DOCTORS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

In 2007, there were 56,000 practicing doctors in the Philippines. Of this number, 6,000 are now working in different parts of the world while 9,000 retrained as nurses to work abroad, 5,000 of which have already left for overseas employment as nurses. When the government asked the new graduates to sign a pledge that they will remain in the Philippines for the next 3 years, only 1,800 signed while 2,200 refused to sign. They used to call this the medical brain drain. They now call this the medical brain hemorrhage.

There is, however, a different breed of doctors having a great impact in their communities. They are the doctors in WMR-assisted hospitals. And now, with the willing, unselfish and all-out support from local government officials, more and more people in the areas troubled by armed conflict are finding peace with each other as they go to the same hospital and visit the same Doctor. Even protagonists in the armed conflict notice that they have same needs and that same doctors and hospitals are meeting their needs in a way that raises their dignity and restore their ability to dream that something good can still happen in their lives. These hospitals have gone through a capacity building experience through the kind assistance of the World Medical Relief.

We have concentrated our efforts in Mindanao for the last four years and we have shipped more than 100 forty foot containers to the different areas of the country. In a clear recognition and expression of support, The Honorable Senator Pia S. Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, presented Mr. George V. Samson and his team to the Philippine Senate in session as official guests. Afterwards, the Honorable Senator spent considerable time with Mr. Samson and his team to find out more about WMR in the Philippines. Indeed, WMR has secured a well-earned respect even among important Filipino Politicians.

In the future, they will write in the history books that once upon a time, the elusive peace in Mindanao was acquired through the hard-working doctors, supported by their dedicated government officials in hospitals made able and properly equipped by the generosity of a Detroit-based group called the WORLD MEDICAL RELIEF. They will say: WMR brought something more than just precious medical relief. WMR gave us hope, peace and enduring belief that there are still many wonderful people in this world.

With no intention to preach but purely out of a desire to encourage our hearts, let me state that I believe that our work as WMR people is viewed with the highest appreciation on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has said: Matt 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

On the final and last day, we, as WMR people, will hear these words from the Master: Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!