“I’d go back tomorrow,” states MNA member Megan Cassidy if she were asked to return to typhoon-ravaged Roxas City, Philippines. And she’d be warmly welcomed by residents as well as the Registered Nurse Relief Network (RNRN) operation continuing to provide health services nearly three months after the area was decimated.
“The people we served are so appreciative that we keep coming,” said Cassidy who is back at her job as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis after volunteering in the Philippines from Jan. 15 – 27. “But at the end of the day, it was my privilege to be there,” she added. “You can’t help be touched when you see people with so little, still smiling, who want to cook for you.” One of Cassidy’s RNRN companions was a native of Roxas City and his family would regularly bring home-cooked meals to the team.
From their main clinic, Cassidy’s group travelled to set up day camps in San Rafael, Estancia and a remote mountain village of Lemery. “We treated people who walked two hours to get to us,” said Cassidy. For some, it was the first time they had received any medical care in their lives. One day, Cassidy estimates that two of their physicians each saw at least 300 people. “Yet they were so patient,” said Cassidy, reflecting on the image of seeing “lots of people in a small space who had big needs.”
Cassidy was impressed by the effectiveness of the RNRN operation, which collaborated with the Philippines-based Alliance of Health Care Workers. “The trust and respect was already established, because our hosts knew the needs of the community so well.”
Cassidy describes citizens of a country living in danger every day. “Houses are down, infrastructure is down and people are displaced,” said Cassidy. The landscape is littered with steel beams bent in half, and sharp metal shards continue to be a source of injury. Downed power lines, flattened schools and a prominent oil spill hinder relief and reconstruction efforts.
The RNRN program is dedicated to providing health resources as long as needed. Even though the demand is great for volunteers, a limited number can go at any one time, due to funding restraints. And although RNRN is still accepting volunteers, National Nurses United (RNRN’s parent organization) encourages nurses to contribute financially to maintain this much-needed relief effort. Click here to learn how you can help.
Anything you can do will make a difference to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. One of the biggest transformations might be your own. “You learn to prioritize; you learn what’s important,” said Cassidy. “We can all be global citizens, no matter where the need is.” Having conscious conversations can spark an idea or point us in a direction for overcoming inertia, and Cassidy is having those exciting discussions with co-workers “and everyone I know.”