Dear MWBPi staff

Dear MWBPi staff

I just want to dedicate this blog post to everyone who is staff at MWBPi, it has been such a privilege to get to know you and call you my friends. Over the past 3 months, I have grown to love each of you and I am honored to meet such loving caring people.

To the caregivers and midwives: keep doing what you’re doing it’s clear that you love the children so much and they love you too. Those kids are in the best possible place until they are adopted with your love and support they really will turn out to be lovely adults. I am grateful for everything you taught me about caring for the children- all the basics and good practice for when I have my own. I am also grateful for all the times that we’ve laughed and had fun on duty, there was never a dull moment especially when working downstairs with the toddlers.

To the social workers: Thank you for letting me tag along when you did different things out in the community. My eyes have really been opened by what I have been involved in. I hope I have touched the children at the dumpsite and in the prison’s lives as much as they touched mine.

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I have had the best few months of my life, I could never put a price on what I have experienced and I have memories and friends that will last forever. Before I left, I was so worried that I was going to be homesick and feel lonely without my family. However thanks to you I never once felt alone. I love you all so much and hope that I will see you again one day. Mahal kita ❤

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Five in a bed- hospital visit

There were 10 in the bed and the little one said roll over, roll over.’ This nursery rhyme certainly came to mind when I visited the maternity ward in General Trias hospital.   Three women and their three newborn babies sharing a bed, it makes it worse that they had just gone through a c section- so were attempting to recover from major abdominal surgery. We were told that in the one ward there were 40 beds and 98 patients, not including the babies and the partners of the women. She also said that this isn’t the most they have. Never complain about the standard of our lovely free health care in the UK, here they pay to share a bed with 4 other women. When Maiken, a nursing student asked the nurse is it common for there to be fatalities in the maternity department she said ‘oh there’s been none this month, that’s good isn’t it, I just nodded and agreed but as it’s only 13 days in it really isn’t such an achievement.  The rest of the rooms in the maternity section followed the same pattern of severe over crowding.   The rest of the hospital wasn’t as overcrowded but the cleanliness and control of the patients didn’t seem great. I noticed that breathing apparatus for babies were hand made with the top of a large bottle (the type you get in a water dispenser).   There was a waiting area for people to see a doctor, I think it was like their equivalent of A and E and it was outside and so crammed, people were even lying on the floor trying to stay cool in the shade, it was 100x worse than the royal glam A and E, even when it’s heaving on a Saturday night.   However the standard here was a lot higher than the two hospitals that we visited in Mindoro. The hospital in Abra and Mamburao were both awful even in comparison to this one. In the minority ward there looked to have been no cleaning gone on in ages, there were people with all types of illness in one room no matter if they were highly infections or not.

Prison

  Every Tuesday morning we go to visit the children’s jail and the prison in Dasmarinas.   First we visit the children’s prison. Here there are an average of 55 (the number changes weekly) boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18.  Girls all share one cell and there aren’t that many of them, and the boys have 3 cells. They all sleep on the floor sharing mattresses- no one has their own bed. Some of the children have been taken to the jail as they have escaped from a bad situation at home and were living on the streets- so instead of taking them into a caring environment they are taken into the jail with other people who have actually committed serious crimes.   We usually get some time after Mae (a social worker) has finished teaching them from the bible to speak to them- they like to ask us lots of questions about our lives, and are surprisingly happy to talk about their own. One girl told us how she had a baby at 14, and now at 16 is in the prison, she didn’t want to say why. Lots of the boys say that they are in for robbery and armed robbery. One boy told us that his friend was in because he killed a man- however I don’t know how true this is because they all started to laugh.   They children do get an opportunity to learn in prison- but most of them haven’t graduated from high school, and some haven’t even graduated from elementary. We can clearly see that there are some forms of control going on between the older boys, as some of the little boys seem to be timid and scared of the older ones.  Sometimes we ask the children when they will be getting out- they usually have no idea, because here actually finishing a court case is impossible without money. Everyone needs to be given money above and below the table, the families of the children don’t have the money to pay lawyers, judges and bribe witnesses so often the children are stuck there for several years for a crime that should just be seen as a mistake and hardly warrant any time in prison.   After we have finished with the children we go into the adult prison. Here there are almost 400 prisoners who have all committed actual crimes- sometimes it can be quite daunting knowing that you could be sitting next to a murderer or a rapist. One of the women in the jail once said to me ‘Thank you so much for coming, I am so glad that you’re not scared’.   There are over 40 women who stay just in one cell- they have absolutely no privacy. I can imagine that they feel they are going crazy inside there. If there were animals being kept the way they are in the UK, it would be illegal. The conditions are just so appalling. The men have more than one cell as there are more of them but still, they don’t even have space to stand. The cells are just the height of one room but are divided into two floors. It’s like they’re being kept on shelves. They do deserve to be in prison, and not have the luxuries that a free man or someone in a Western prison has but they still deserve to be treated like humans. Going to prison here really is a punishment.

Mindoro 2.2

Wednesday   On Wednesday morning, we were planning on going to the devotional meeting that the Chinese and Filipino students run, but it was at 6am, and when the alarm went off at 5:30 it didn’t seem so appealing. So we missed it for the second time this week.   After breakfast we went to the classroom, where there is a daily school class run for children with different special needs. The class is lead by a teacher called Jane. It’s really good that these children have the opportunity to go to ministries throughout the day and learn basic skills and some academic things. In the Philippines, there are not a lot of programs and help for children with special needs- they are often left at home with their parents. The class that is run by MWBPi gives the children somewhere to go and enjoy themselves and learn and it also provides some well-needed rest bite for the parents.   In the afternoon we went to another village- here we were removing lice again. This village only had a limited water supply so it was more difficult to wash the hair.  There were even more lice in the hair of the people in this village than the last- the more you combed the more that came out. Even after we had finished combing the hair some of the girls with long thick hair were still itching, however it was just impossible for us to get all the lice out. In a few weeks the midwives will go to the village again and repeat the treatment and hopefully kill the lice.   In the evening Rebekka and I went over the to the building where the students are living and somehow got roped into singing ‘silent night’. We then spent some time with the Filipino students who showed us magic tricks and taught us to say some phrases in Tagalog. * I LOVE YOU- MAHAL KITA*   Thursday   On Thursday morning we joined with the bible school students and did some team building activities that were organized by Kristine and Cato (Noralv’s daughter and husband who have been staying in Mindoro for a while). It was really fun to work in a team with the Chinese and Filipinos. I just had to keep telling myself that it’s the taking part that counts not the winning. I had to keep my competitive streak at bay to avoid spoiling to aim of the day, which was teamwork.   In the afternoon we went to the hospital in Mamburao again, to hand out clothes to the patients in the Minority ward (the Mangyan people).  While we were in the hospital we met a woman in the ward that had just given birth to her 10th child at the age of 36. Having 10 children is actually considered normal, especially amongst the native people. Sadly it is common for a mother to lose a child in their first year.   Later in the evening, Ingrid a girl who is living in Manila who has been volunteering in Cavite joined us in Mindoro.     Friday   On Friday morning we went to a village that was close to Core, this was across a river so it was more difficult to get to than the others. There were also many water buffalo bathing in the river while we were crossing. After teaching the villagers about lice and hygiene we again washed lice out of the hair. Just like the other villages there was a head lice epidemic. We also washed the children and the soap that we were washing them with actually turned brown as we washed them; once they were all clean we gave them new clothes. The babies cried a lot but the older children seemed to enjoy being clean and were looking really happy in their new clothes. The mothers also seemed happy that their children had some clean clothes that weren’t damaged and fitted properly.   For lunch we attempted to cook fried rice, but we cooked the rice wrong so it just ended up like sticky rice porridge so we ended up eating biscuits for our lunch.   In the afternoon we went to the beach for a swim in the sea again. This time we were 4 in the tricycle and it was a bit cramped so on the way home I sat in the luggage section at the back of the tricycle much to amusement of the local people that we passed on the way home.   Saturday   At 8am on Saturday morning we went to the beach to teach the Chinese students to swim, it was highly amusing and but most of them managed to conquer floating. While swimming in the sea I managed to tare my trousers totally along the middle seam so I spent ages in the sea with my bum on show before I realized. We didn’t find much exciting things in the sea- but there were some coconut shells close to the shore and if you turned them over you’d find a large crab inside.  Everyone had fun threating to throw them at me.   Once we got home we got showed and dressed and headed to the market to buy some fresh veg for our lunch and dinner that day. We also replaced the rice we ruined with noodles.   In the evening we watched a film with all the students I’m not sure how much they understood as it was in English but they seemed to enjoy it despite the lack of understanding. We then packed up all of our stuff to leave the next day to travel to Puerto Gallera.

Mindoro 2.1

Sunday   On Sunday we travelled again to Mindoro- this time we sat outside at the front of the boat because inside was just full of beds, which were all full of people. The boat was extra busy because it was a semester break in the schools leading up to All Saints Day (Nov 1st). We don’t celebrate All Saints Day much at home, but here entire families gather at the grave of loved ones and eat and drink and celebrate that person the entire day, it’s one the biggest events on the calendar here.   This time Rebekka, Eline and I stayed in a cabin (no. 5- Samaria) which was just at the bottom of the big ‘mountain’ that is in the Core in Mindoro (Core is the name that has been given the MWBPi Center in Mindoro). It was nice to have our own house, and we even had our own Gecko, Gilbert.   On Sunday evening we ate dinner with the Filipino students and had an early night to rest up from the journey.   Monday   On Monday morning, the plan was to go to a village at 8:30 to teach about hand washing however when we went to the Iselin Center (the health and birth clinic in Core) we were waiting for about 1.5 hours for a woman that was in labor to finish giving birth before we could leave- she had a lovely baby boy. The woman that was in the clinic was a woman from one of the local Mangyan villages that the midwives are visiting on a weekly basis. We then went to a village and taught the people the importance of hand washing- how it can prevent the spread of diseases and help prevent diarrhoea.   Which in an environment like this would save a lot of young children’s lives, as it is very common to die of dehydration cause by diarrhoea.  We showed the mothers and children how they properly clean their hands with soap and in between each of the fingers.   We got dropped off in the local market- Abra where we bought vegetables, rice, noodles and eggs for the week, as we would be cooking our meals in our Cabin.     After lunch we went to another village. Here Rebekka, Eline and I gave a short sketch on head lice- how they are spread, how to prevent them and how to treat them. We then took the children and women down to the river and treated their head lice- first we washed their hair with treatment shampoo and then once the lice were dead we combed through their hair to remove all of the dead critters. I felt like the ‘nit nurse’ that visits primary schools. The people seemed appreciative that we got rid of the thing that was causing their head to be so itchy.             Tuesday   On Tuesday morning Rebekka and Eline went to mother’s class to sing a song and I stayed in bed. We then had a big breakfast before leaving to go to the hospital in Mamburao (the main town that is close to Core- about 45 mins drive). MWBPi are often going to the hospital to visit the Mangyan people – as they sometimes struggle to get the right medicine to treat their conditions. The Midwives also follow up on people that have been referred from the Clinic to the hospital. The Mangyan (native people) and the Tagalog people are treated very differently in the hospital- the Mangyan people are looked down on so their ward isn’t cleaned often and the nurses don’t check on the patients regularly. In the Philippines it is the duty of someone that comes with the sick person to take the prescription of medication and buy the drugs that the patient needs- the Mangyans can’t read to so they struggle to buy the right medication. This time that we visited the hospital all of the patients had the medication that they needed however one lady asked if she could have some clothes- the midwife that came with us said she would take some to her on her day off.   After returning home we decided that we should visit the local beach- so we took a tricycle- a motorbike with a sidecar type thing attached to the beach which took about 20 minutes and cost 30peso (about 45p) to the beach and went and swam in the Sea. The tricycle driver knew of MWBPi so he waited for us until we wanted to go back. The sea was really warm- so nice. When you’re at the local beach’s you have to swim with your clothes on as the local people are much more conservative than Westerners so would be shocked if we just started to swim in a bikini.   After the beach we went back to our cabin and made veggie noodles stir-fry for our dinner, which was really good. We also made Oreo ice cream for desert – but it didn’t freeze in time.   Photos will be uploaded when I have proper Internet connection- at the moment I’m just using very poor mobile data so photos might take several hours per photo to upload.

Filipino culture!

  I thought it was about time that I wrote a blog about the different culture here. Things that we, as Westerners, would consider rude are okay here.   There are a number of things that you can expect a Filipino to ask you and say to you. The first question that everyone will ask is ‘How old are you?’ Followed by ‘Oh so are you married? Engaged? Got a boyfriend?’ If you answer no to any of the above, you will surely get asked ‘why not?’ If you tell them that yes you are married, they will then follow up with many questions about your marriage such as have you got kids etc. On the topic of relationships, even if you say ‘yes I have a boyfriend’ they will still ask if you’re interested in a Filipino Boy.   Another thing that is common for a Filipino to say to you is ‘Oh wow, your nose is just so big’. The first time someone said this to me, I was slightly offended, as in our culture a big nose isn’t considered a good thing. But the Filipinos, don’t have a nose the shape of ours, so to them a big nose is definitely a good thing. A nicer thing for them to say is ‘oh you’re so beautiful, you have such lovely skin and eyes’. This is because many people here admire white skin, and love how we all have different colour eyes, not just dark brown or almost black. Majority of people actually want to be paler, they are using whitening creams, and umbrellas in the sun. They just can’t understand why we would want a tan!   When we are shopping, people especially children will stare, and wave. Some will even approach you to speak to you. Staring isn’t rude, it’s in fact a sign of admiration.  We have also been approach for photos and asked if we would like to join some boys for a coffee, we politely told them that we were leaving.   A strange thing that Filipinos do is, raise their eyebrows to say ‘yes’. You don’t notice it at first, but after you have been told, then you will see them do it allll the time. Another odd thing they do with their face is point with their lips, they sort of pout in the direction that you need to go, apparently they don’t even realize they are doing it, it’s just automatic.   Filipinos are really clean people; they shower 2 or 3 times a day minimum. I haven’t met one person here that smells, which really is impressive considering it’s boiling hot and some of them live in make shift houses. When you are driving down the road, you always see people washing themselves or their children with buckets of water, or cleaning their clothes. White T-shirts are whiter in the Philippines.     There are a lot of other cultural differences, but there are so many I could really go on forever!

Children’s home update

Last Wednesday, a local clinic was providing free vaccinations. One for something- the name I can’t remember, which was an oral drop, and the MR vaccine- for measles and rubella.  We got there just after it opened at 8am, and there was already so many people waiting. Some of the babies there were so tiny it looked like they had just been born. We took all 5 babies from upstairs, and they hardly cried even when they had the jabs.  

In the afternoon, because there were many people staying here and able to help with the children, we took all 8 toddlers from downstairs to the mall, where they went to a play area and then ate at Jollibee. Jollibee is a McDonalds type eatery in the Philippines. The children had so much fun in the play area they just didn’t want to leave- there was a lot of screaming. When we reached Jollibee, they were all so excited about their food. They ate fries and spaghetti with tomato sauce- so you can imagine the mess.   When we were walking through the mall sooooo many Filipinos were looking at us all confused as to why there was 7 white girls, with 8 Filipino children.  

On the way home, 2 of the younger children fell asleep in the car- they were just shattered.  

This week entailed another trip to the doctors; this time because 4 of the babies have had a really bad cough and wheezy chest for a few days- they were given antibiotics. It’s common for the children to get sick at this time of the year because of the change in temperature and weather.  

On Tuesday this week, one of the little boys from the children’s home met his adoptive parents and left for his new home. He hugged his mum straight away and didn’t want to leave her side as soon as he saw her. It was such a happy day.  

Today (Thursday) 4 of the older children in the home, who are going to a day care center/school for a couple of hours a day, were in a parade. It was to do with United Nations, so they all dressed up and represented a different country. All the children got dressed up, and loads of parents came to watch their children perform. It seemed as if the parents actually enjoyed it more than the children.  

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Me and Rebekka with two of the boys- thid was thier second costume. Batman and superman. 

It’s always fun to work with the kids, especially downstairs, especially when it’s bath time. Today, while we were bathing the kids, one boy decided to put his hands in the toilet and put the water into his hair. Then he put his head inside the toilet, and the other children copied. I have no idea where the kids are getting strange ideas like this!