Bugko, in December 2023
Dear members, dear friends and supporters of Mabuhay!
Carl Stöcker and Friedrich Küchler came to us from August 11th to September 22nd. Both had studied dentistry in Ulm and now wanted to help patients here in the clinic with their dental problems. From day one, the dental clinic was full. During her stay, an Apex device, which is needed for root canal treatment, also arrived and we ordered the digital X-ray device mentioned in the last letter. This was a real benefit for the young dentists and it was used frequently. Since it is digital, it brings with it the advantages of filmless image representation and we do not need X-ray films and developer solutions for this device. The purchase was initially a little more expensive, but in the long term there are many advantages. The young dentists also carried out the first root canal treatment. Like the dentists before them, they also noticed the poor dental condition of the patients, which encouraged them to work twice as well and efficiently. They also trained patients in good oral hygiene.
Philipp Lanwert came to us on September 10th. He has just graduated from high school and we were very happy when he said he would like to do a three-month internship with us. He helped with all the work, provided driving services and helped with gardening. He also quickly found his way into the team. The heat and the mosquitoes bothered him a lot at first, but that was overcome after a few weeks. With his cheerful nature, he quickly made contact with the other guests who came here and quickly made friends in the village. In addition to work, he learned a lot about the Filipino culture. After this exciting time, we wish him the very best for his future. He will study political science in Mainz next year.
A new dental team arrived on October 8th so that the dental treatment could continue. Harun Süt, Alice Forstner, Katharina Gorrhian and Anna Hägler. They had studied dentistry at the University of Regensburg and now wanted to work a lot. Unfortunately, holidays and local elections intervened, which greatly reduced patient volume. Alice Forstner had to leave after a few days because she became ill. More patients could have been treated, but their teeth were not a priority for the population in October. Unfortunately, because the need is still great.
As already mentioned, there were local elections on October 30th. The mayor, his council and the youth representatives were elected. This always causes some excitement in the village as there were several candidates and therefore a close neck-and-neck race. I'm always just an observer, but the local council is actually more important to us than the president or the senators, since they are much further away from the citizens. Unfortunately the votes are still being sold, which always influences the election result.
On November 5th, Marina Gruber, Leandra Dieckerhoff, Julie Kuhl (Uni Giessen) came for two weeks to get some practical experience. They were accompanied by Mr. Jelte Große-Bruckmann, who has been working as a dentist for some time. After his time in the Philippines, he wants to move to Osnabrück to learn more about surgery in dentistry in a large dental office. The three young dentists were happy to have him in the background when patients had difficult treatments.
The last guest was Nina Woitzik from Freiburg. She also had experience in a dental practice and with her and Mr. Jelte Große-Bruckmann we had an experienced team at the end of the year. They were able to help many patients in the dental office. Like all dentists, our two volunteers Maria and Birgit were there to assist them and, in addition to taking in patients, providing translations, they also helped cleaning the instruments. In addition to the dental station, they helped us to pack the relief supplies after the flood disaster - I'll report on that later -, got involved in youth work and got to know the country and culture. Both will travel further in the Philippines after their time with us.
In November we transported our old dental unit to the primary school so that students could have regular check-ups with our guest dentists. In the future, we will also carry out the fluoride program there and then bring the children who need treatment to the dental clinic. This “external office” will bring many advantages and we are glad that the old dentist chair is still in use. We would like to thank the German Dentists' Aid Organization for their support of our dental clinic over the years.
In addition to the clinic, a major focus of our work remains with the children in the nutrition program. In addition to instruction in general hygiene, such as washing hands and brushing teeth, the mothers cook together and the children eat together in small groups. The demand is high and at the moment we have integrated 100 children again at various locations. The German club in Manila continues to support us in this matter.
We have support in the clinic from local guest doctors. Dra. Tirazona is a general
practitioner, Dra. Marino a pediatrician. But I still see most patients myself because they prefer the “American Doctor”. The patients come from all over the province and travel long
distances. Unfortunately, we often see patients with advanced illnesses, which is certainly due to the pandemic, where the residents were only able to leave their village with great
difficulty and had hardly any medical treatment. Many patients come with advanced tuberculosis, high blood pressure and diabetes, which is due to too little exercise (heat-related) and high
rice consumption. In addition, a lot of patients come for wound care because the doctors in the city often don't even bother to open the bandages and look at the wounds. Instead of complex
and lengthy wound care, they recommend amputation, which is very drastic in a country like the Philippines, as the necessary aids are missing to make daily life easier for leg amputees, for
Over the years, health care from the state has improved and there are more doctors and specialists, but there is a lack of trust and patients particularly like the personal attention that they don't get in the local hospital or from doctors in private practice. In addition to the clinic, I also make home visits, especially if the patients do not want to go to the hospital, are immobile or are dying.
We held a team building weekend with both our volunteers and the workers to strengthen cooperation. There were lots of conversations, sharing memories, games and singing. After many years of working together, this was good for everyone and we realized that it would be good to meet up more often outside of the clinic.
Shortly before I left for Germany there was a huge catastrophe. We had not any typhoons or similar natural disasters for a long time and November is usually the beginning of the rainy season here. It rained continuously for days and on November 21st 618mm of rain fell in 24 hours, which was as much as it usually rains in 6 weeks in just one day!! Even our provincial capital, Catarman, was flooded and inaccessible. It was the highest amount of rainfall that had ever been measured, and the rivers rose accordingly and there was extensive flooding, impassable roads, even the main roads were impassable, many landslides, destroyed houses and of course no electricity because the lines were overturned. We set off by car, but we didn't get very far. The water was simply too high. It was also difficult to stand on your feet outside the car because the current was so strong. A state of emergency was declared. After November 21st it was still raining, but not as heavily and the water was able to drain away slowly in the following days. A total of 84,500 families were affected by the disaster. Over 1,500 houses were completely destroyed and a lot of farmland was also affected. We immediately packed aid packages with food, clothing and detergent for 100 families in a nearby town. Elsewhere, help came from the government, the Red Cross and other aid organizations, as well as through private initiatives. This eased the initial distress, but the clean-up, repair and construction work will take even longer. Here are the pictures
Now I've written a lot about what it's been like here in the last few months and
they were very moving and sometimes exciting, as you could read.
It's time to say THANK YOU - SALAMAT for your constant support for our project in Bugko. Your financial support helps us to maintain the Mabuhay Clinic with all of its programs. Boxes containing donated supplies such as glasses, clothing, bandages, children's toys, etc. arrive several times a year. What was initially a small project has become a big one and continues to need your support. The poor population is growing and the many natural disasters keep setting us back.
The year 2023 was not easy, but we are looking positively into 2024. There have already been many promises and inquiries from dentists and doctors and we hope that the clinic will continue to be a center where the poor population in particular can receive medical and dental help can get.
I wish you a blessed and merry Christmas and all the best for 2024!
Bugko, April 2023
Dear members, dear friends and supporters of Mabuhay!
As in previous years I traveled to Germany for a short time in December to meet my family and friends to inform them about our Mabuhay Clinic and the ongoing projects. On January 8th our first two dentists for this year arrived from Germany. After their exam, they traveled from Kiel University fully motivated. Pia Torst and Sophie Meister went to work immediately, but were dismayed that they had to carry out mostly extractions because either the condition of the tooth did not allow anything else or the patient not understand and not agree that the tooth could be saved with a filling. Unfortunately, a lot of educational work is still needed here..
On January 20th, Dr. Christian Nick with his wife Bärbel arrived. The experienced internist and his wife were warmly welcomed. There is always enough work and they quickly settled into our Mabuhay team. The patients liked the calmness that the new doctor exuded and the patients were well cared for by him. Dr. Nick treated many patients with advanced tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease. There was also wound care and acupuncture. He also helped to prepare the International Surgical Mission (ISM), scheduled for February. For this purpose, preliminary examinations are necessary, especially for patients who are due to undergo thyroid surgery. Bärbel Nick helped everywhere. First she sorted ointments and medication and helped prepare the operating room for the upcoming operations. She prepared the packages for the children in the feeding program and went to the herbarium to pack teas. The three weeks that they were here flew by and we hope that they will make their way to us again. I have learned a lot from Dr. Nick and I can now apply this knowledge.
Dr. Nick and his wife also attended the nutrition program and presented the children certificates of completion. Afterwards we brought a little belated Christmas joy to the children who live in the area around the cemetery. Everyone was very happy and we decided to include the children near the cemetery in our next nutrition program. The living and food conditions there are very poor and we think that our help will be well received there.
heUnfortunately, the weather didn't suit our guests in January. It rained almost continuously and on January 16 the governor declared the state of emergency as large parts of the province suffered from flooding and landslides. The continuous rain also made it difficult for many patients to come to us because road conditions made it impossible or concerns about their homes outweighed. A fisherman was drifted in his boat from Bugko to Biri Island. He survived it. Others were not so lucky and lost their lives because, despite warnings, they went out to sea in their boats to catch fish, which of course could bring a high price.
On February 8th we met with Caritas Germany and COSE (Coalation of Services of the Elderly), as well as everyone involved in Northern Samar, to talk about the progress of the seniors program. Since Bugko plays a pioneering role, our senior program was presented and discussed in detail. The senior program is becoming increasingly popular and many seniors are actively involved in cooking, baking, gardening, dancing, Zumba, bingo, singing and much more. We hope that Caritas Germany will continue to support the program beyond December 2023. Attempts are now being made to establish the program in other cities here, but Caritas Germany and COSE need more support from the province here. So we met the governor the following day to ask for his support. Governor Edwin Ongchuan was very inclined towards our concern and is also very interested in visiting our clinic in the near future.
Our new dental chair was installed on February 14th. Just in time before the next dentists arrived. We are very thankful to the Hilfswerk Deutscher Zahnärzte and especially to Dr. Klaus Winter for making it possible. The installation took a little longer this time because there were still delivery delays due to the pandemic.
After a short break arrived Dr. Georg Lindner with his wife Evelyn. At first they only brought two dentistry students with them, as there were no flights due to the airport strike in Frankfurt and only Leah Marie Dobos from the University of Greifswald and Nikola Schreiner from the University of Freiburg managed to get here on time. The two other students Helene Britz and Celine Prevost, both from the University of Mainz, arrived almost a week late. The team had many patients and, in addition to tooth extractions, fillings and teeth cleanings, they also did a lot of educational work. Miss Lindner helped in the cafeteria.
The prophylaxis program, supported by the Hilfswerk Deutscher Zahnärzte was reorganized and many new children were accepted. We hope to significantly improve the children's dental condition by reviving the fluorine prophylaxis program. We will be able to do this through regular checks and instructions on good oral and dental hygiene from our volunteers and the guest dentists who will now be coming regularly and will also be able to treat the children directly if necessary.
In the week of February 20th til 25th the team from ISM (International Surgical Mission) came to us from the USA. Due to the 3-year pandemic break, the doctors had a long list of patients who wanted surgery. The outpatient procedures took place in our clinic, those under general anesthesia in a neighboring hospital. Every day a different team of doctors came to us to operate our patients. Our volunteers assisted and so 60 patients were able to undergo outpatient surgery in our clinic. Most of the time, the surgeons operated on two tables to shorten the waiting time for patients.
Middle of March the dentist students and Dr. Lindner were releaved by Rafaela Schmider, Ulm University, and Kristina Gonzales Siebold and Marlen Mangelsdorf from Marburg. Ms. Schmider completed her exams three years ago, but was unable to go abroad due to the pandemic. The three quickly came together to form a team and were able to help many patients. Many children came for treatment who were not afraid of the “big” dentists.
As you can see, the first half of the year was marked by visits from many young dentists. Due to the pandemic, no dental treatment took place and the condition of the teeth is very poor, not only in our area, but in the entire province. We have another very exciting and busy few months behind us and every day brings new challenges. We thank you for all your support that helps us overcome these challenges and bring help to people here.
And so I greet you with warm affection and wish you a happy Easter and a blessed Easter season.
Salamat(thank you) from Bugko!
Bugko, August 2023
Dear members, dear friends and supporters of Mabuhay!
Antonia Borchard Juliane Orth, both from the University of Freiburg, and Julia Balaz from the University of Munich came from April 16th to May 14th. They had just completed their exams and came to Bugko fully motivated to put what they had learned into practice. They also collected many boxes of material donations. They had many patients and were able to assist each other in treating the patients. Maria and Begit, our volunteers at the dental station, were there to help them every day and help with translation. Like the other guest dentists, they saw a lot of need for treatment. They particularly cared about the children and were able to treat many of them. In addition to the dental station, they explored the area and made new Filipino friends.
At the end of May, Sr. Veronica and I went to Germany. As always, it's nice to see many of you. Unfortunately, our stay was overshadowed by a few deaths in the neighborhood, which did not leave us untouched. We will never understand why young lives are being extinguished, but it is all the more painful when you know the people. Although we were there longer this year than in previous years, the time was too short to see you all. We are very sorry, but I hope you understand. We returned on July 9th and with us on the plane was Dr. Sohrab Rahmani from Hamburg. He also wanted to take care of patients with dental diseases. Since he could only “escape” his practice for a week, he started working straight away. He was impressed by the good facilities of the dental ward. Thanks to his years of experience, he was also able to treat “difficult cases”. The patients were happy to come and he was assisted by a young dentistry student from Mondragon who had learned a lot from Dr. Rahmani could learn. The dentistry student is supported by the German Dentists' Aid Association. We are glad that he shows so much interest and is easy to train. Dr. Rahmani and the dentists who followed were thrilled. He also helped with translations for patients. We are very grateful to the German Dentists' Aid Organization, as the young man would not have been able to complete his studies on his own. Dentistry is still one of the most expensive and longest courses in the Philippines. He still has four years of study ahead of him.
Because Dr. Rahmani, as mentioned, could only stay for a week, we were happy that Dr. Leonhard Lemke and Paul Oster came directly after him to take over the dental ward. Dr. Lemke has been working in a practice in Munich for years and Paul Oster passed his exam in dentistry at the University of Mainz a few months ago. Neither of them knew each other before, but they quickly became friends and quickly became a well-rehearsed team in the clinic.
Due to the long dry season and heat index of up to 46', the farm lagged behind a bit. We were able to harvest ocra, beans, chard, eggplant and fruits such as papaya, pineapple, avocado and lime, but not as much as in previous years.
We are continuing the nutritional program for children. There are currently 80 children in the program. Many of the parents have not yet found regular work after the pandemic and the increased food prices are also contributing to this. The parents are very grateful and work together for the benefit of the children. They cook together and then the children eat together in small groups. We often give additional vitamins to make sure the children feel well. When they are sick, their mothers take them to the clinic. We are happy that we have been able to carry out the nutrition program for 15 years without interruption.
Our old X-ray machine has been broken for a long time and all attempts to repair it have failed. This is a big problem for us as we see patients with lung disease who urgently need an X-ray every day. Last year we received a used mobile X-ray machine to help patients quickly, as it is very important for diagnostics, especially since many of our patients have tuberculosis. With help from the German Embassy in Manila, we were now able to convert this mobile X-ray machine into a digital X-ray machine. It has the advantage that in the long term we can send the images online for evaluation, the image quality is better and we no longer pollute the environment with the X-ray fluids. In addition, the films and development solutions came from Manila and it was only during the pandemic that we realized how difficult it is to get these materials. That is now gone. Our x-ray assistant received an introduction from the company Medtrack, which also regularly maintains the device. We hope that we will soon be able to use digital X-rays in the dental ward.
The senior program continues. Caritas Germany and COSE have regular meetings to evaluate the program. On June 26th, the new German representative for Caritas' Philippine projects, Mr. Michael Königer, came from Freiburg to get an on-site impression. The seniors meet regularly for various activities, sometimes with more, sometimes with less presence. We hope that the program will continue to be supported by Caritas beyond December 2023.
On July 21st, all measures taken to restrict the spread of the Covid virus in the Philippines during the pandemic were officially lifted by the president. Our volunteers continue to be a great support to us and help where necessary. Depending on your interests, they are deployed either in the dental ward, in reception, in the index card room, in the cafeteria or in the pharmacy. The clinic stands or falls with them and we can only be grateful that they have remained loyal to us over the years, because the original team is still here.
And another piece of good news. Maybe some of you still remember the young man who we had an artificial leg made because he was crippled by polio. This year he graduated from college with a degree in computer science and was able to receive his certificate on two legs with his mother.
Congratulations!! As you can see, the guest dentists in the dental clinic give each other the handle. After the long pandemic break, we are of course happy that so many patients can be treated. And it will stay that way for now, as the dental ward will be occupied until the first months of 2024. In this context, we are grateful for the ongoing support of the German Dentists' Aid Organization, which has repeatedly helped to keep the dental station up to date. Now I wish you all a nice rest of the summer, stay healthy everyone and I would like to greet you warmly until we see you again, hopefully in December for our annual skin meeting