Saturday, April 14, 2007

PANAWAGAN: Be a Foster Parent to PAL's Pinoy Medical Mission Beneficiaries in Southern California

Filipinos have a saying "Bawal magkasakit. [We can't afford to get sick.]" A serious illness in the family usually spells doom in the Philippines. There are no medical personnel or facilities at all in about 300 Filipino towns and the rest are mostly ill-equipped and under-staffed.

The elusive dream of having one doctor for every 20,000 Filipinos seems ridiculous by American standards until you realize that there are 88 million FIlipinos living in a country about as large as the state of Kansas, and that 25 million Filipino families get by on $2 or less a day. Not surprisingly, one out of three infants and pre-schoolers is malnourished and many still die of simple respiratory infections or water-borne diseases. Filipinos who make it to the hospitals of major cities like Manila or Cebu must still pay for all their medical supplies and tests. If they are from the remote barrios, living expenses outside the hospital are another obstacle to getting medical care.

This is why the Philippine Airlines(PAL) Foundation has PAL Medical Travel Grants (; to help indigent Pinoys to access quality medical care as charity patients.

Mending Kids International (MKI) ( is one of the charities that helps PAL Medical Travel Grantees. Through MKI, indigent Filipino children (0 to 18 years old) get free care for serious but correctable medical conditions at UCLA, Cedars Sinai, Shriners Burn Institute and the L.A. Children's Hospital. Often, these children go back to the Philippines with healed bodies and brighter futures too. Take the case of little CJ, born with a hole in his heart, and the youngest of five children of a Cebu factory worker making $6 a day. His parents' meager earnings could not keep up with CJ's hospital bills. He was malnourished and had been hospitalized for pneumonia eight times before he was a year old. CJ's eldest brother even had to quit school. Doctors in Cebu said it would cost at least US$25,000 or over a million pesos to fix CJ's heart. Little CJ from Cebu weighed just 10 lbs at age one. He only began walking and talking after he had free open heart surgery atUCLA.

One of the PAL Foundation's benefactors, Dr. Arlene Roque Kamen took a special interest in CJ's case. PAL shipped for free from L.A. to Cebu, Dr.Kamen's donations of special high calorie infant formula and medical supplies, for CJ (as well as for other PAL Foundation beneficiaries). She even paid for CJ's visa and other travel documents. A PAL Medical TravelGrant brought CJ to Southern California so he could have free open heart surgery at UCLA. MKI volunteers helped send back 6 balikbayan boxes of household effects, toys and clothes for CJ's family. They have committed to put electricity in CJ's remote island home when he returns this March. The PAL Foundation and Mending Kids could bring over many more indigent Filipino medical missions children, from infants to 18 y.o. adolescents (mostly for heart surgery like CJ). But before we do this, the children must have hands-on host families in Southern California. MKI hosting is purely voluntary with the child staying an average of one to two months, so many host families do become emotionally attached.

As MKI Director andFounder Cristie Kae Embleton says: "You take a child into your home to mend his heart, but he will break yours when he goes back home to thePhilippines." Still you will have the immeasurable satisfaction of having helped another human being to find healing and a better life. There are great emotional rewards as well as material responsibilities to being an MKI host family. For starters, the adults must get current criminal clearances. The MKI social worker will do a family home study and later on, supervise the child's stay.

Because these are medical missions children, the primary caregiver in the host family must know how to administer First Aid and CPR. The host must also be available to drive the child to doctor's appointments. There is no age limit to being an MKI Host and able seniors or retirees are especially welcome to open their hearts and their homes to our Filipino children in need of special attention.

Fil-Americans who want to help but just don't have the time because they work 9 to 5, can also serve as "RESPITE HOST FAMILIES." They don't host the child full-time but may be called on to pinch hit for a day or a weekend, in case something comes up. They may also want to treat the host family to a Filipino meal, or take the time to make the child pasyal , or donate toys, clothing, or phone cards so the child can call home.Please call or email Mending Kids:

661.288.1957; to find out more about reaching out to our littlest kababayan. Mabuhay at maraming salamat po!.

Ma. Carmen "Menchu" Aquino Sarmiento
Executive DirectorPhilippine Airlines (PAL) Foundation
Gate 1, PAL Maintenance Base Complex
Andrews Avenue, Nichols, Pasay City 1309

Phone: (632) 851-2980;
(632) 855-8000 extension 2563
Fax: (632) 852-6096

1 comment:

alex said...

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...