(Last of Two Parts)
The Gift of the Givers Foundation arrived in Palompon, Leyte to provide medical aid to the municipality’s residents affected by super typhoon Yolanda. Aside from conducting medical missions in the barangays, the organization helped by rehabilitating the municipal hospital.
Palompon General Hospital Rehabilitated
The Palompon General Hospital, known as the Mariano B. Veloso Memorial Hospital, stands atop a hill overlooking the town proper of Palompon. One can see the damage caused by Yolanda — trees uprooted and houses with no roofs.
The hospital was created in the 1960s and serves patients from other municipalities. Prior to Yolanda, there were talks that the hospital is bound for closure because of budget problems.
When the Gift of the Givers inspected the hospital last November 19, the team was greeted with patients lying in beds in the lobby and along the hallways of the first floor. The hospital was old with many sections abandoned, including the second floor, which was completely deserted due to deterioration and damage from the typhoon.
Gift of the Givers arranged for the rehabilitation of the hospital’s second floor. And in just a week, sections of the second floor are operational and ready to receive patients. More hospital beds were also acquired to for the hospital to accommodate more patients. The renovated hospital now has a 100-bed capacity compared to the 30-bed capacity when only the first floor was operational. The foundation also decided to provide the hospital with new equipment, which started to arrive during the renovation.
Aside from renovation, specialized medical service were provided when the second team of 21 doctors, mostly specialized, arrived on November 23. Even while the hospital was undergoing renovation, the doctors were already tending to the patients.
Helping Palompon Recover
Aside from the initial aid of medical services and the rehabilitation of the hospital, the organization has launched a housing rehabilitation project for the people of Palompon whose homes are destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda. The organization launched “Housing for Christmas in the Philippines.” The program will provide beneficiaries with building kits to repair their homes. The organization has already sponsored 100 houses and donations are being made. The building kits are expected to start arriving this month.
Aside from medical aid, the mission helped Palompon get up on its feet. Dr. Rodrigo Ong, mission leader of the Filipino contingent, recounted that, “When we arrived, stores were closed. When we needed materials, the mayor helped out in procuring and telling where we can buy. And when we left, stores and groceries were open and even lechon manok (roasted chicken) was being roasted and sold in the corner.” Ong is convinced that the mission also helped the local economy recover.
Despite the hardships of the people of Palompon, the team of South Africans were welcomed with Filipino hospitality.
Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, the CEO and founder of of Gift of the Givers, thanked the people of Palompon during a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony of the hospital’s second floor. He said that they expected to meet “people with broken homes, yet we were housed. We thought of bringing food, yet we were given food in abundance.”
Sooliman said that for their team, their experience in Palompon and its people’s hospitality has been fulfilling saying, “We were taught values, we were taught hospitality, we were taught spirituality.”
The Gift of the Givers was the first aid group to arrive in Palompon. The group was the first to set up camp and particularly focus on the municipality which was not given media attention despite being also heavily damaged by Typhoon Yolanda.
Vice Mayor Arevalo said also during the ribbon-cutting ceremony that, “After a few days, no help came… We realized that we were on our own and then you came. We did not know, we did not expect it. It was such a pleasant surprise. You are not only the Gift of the Givers. Because our soul was broken at that time, you are the healers of our soul.”
Mayor Oñate also thanked the Gift of the Givers. “Because during those times when we needed help most, they came to Palompon,” he said. He added, “They are the first one who came to Palompon and gave us light during those darkest hours of our lives.”