The love of the volunteers and dentists of Tzu Chi Foundation, Philippines sees past through religious differences as they held the 87th Mobile Dental Service for the indigent parishioners and volunteer workers of “Ang Muling Pagkabuhay ng Ating Panginoon Parish” (The Resurrection of Our Lord Parish) in Barangay Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, December 8.
A small parish church established in the 1980s, “Ang Muling Pagkabuhay ng Ating Panginoon Parish” lives up to its commitment to help their impoverished fellowmen in the community through charitable programs like scholarships, livelihood and housing project.
The indigence of the said community, which serves as a relocation site for informal settlers from different areas in Metro Manila, roots from the unemployment and low-paying jobs of parents in each family, therefore hindering most to seek treatment for their medical problems.
Fortunately, about two years ago, Tzu Chi volunteers learned about the community after they met one resident who had club feet, accompanied by one volunteer social worker from the parish, seeking medical assistance at a hospital in Quezon City. From that first medical case that the volunteers responded to, the affinity between the foundation and the community blossomed as locals in need of medical assistance were then often brought by the parish volunteer social workers to Tzu Chi for help which the latter duly grants out of its desire to alleviate the sufferings of the residents.
Moreover, the apparent dental problems of most of the residents moved the social workers to ask Tzu Chi Foundation’s help once more in meeting the needs of the indigent parishioners and volunteer workers of the parish.
According to Osie Nasol, 50, one of the volunteer social workers at the parish, among the major problems of people who serve at the church is their teeth. However, since they are volunteer workers, they lack money for transportation fees to go to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Dental Clinic in Sta. Mesa, Manila or even yet, avail dental treatment in private clinics.
Understanding the sufferings that the residents are bearing, 16 Tzu Chi volunteers and staff, three Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) and local dentists, and five dental aides drove for about two hours to “Ang Muling Pagkabuhay ng Ating Panginoon Parish” church to provide free dental services on tooth extraction, oral prophylaxis and dental restoration.
However, the dental mission did not only serve as a way to ease the sufferings of the residents but also to awaken the people to the need to protect Mother Earth by becoming vegetarian.
After watching a video clip that showed the cruelty that animals have to go through in slaughterhouses just to provide meat for humans, the residents were moved to lessen their meat-intake. Among them was 34-year-old Rosalie Bansag, “I felt like my heart was being crushed while I was watching the video. Animals also have the right to live just like humans. I could not hold myself back from crying because I immediately thought of our pets at home; we treat them like they are part of our family.”
Bansag has been a volunteer librarian at the church for two years and receives only P 1,000 worth of allowance every month, which could barely meet the needs of her two children, one of whom is a special child. The irregular income of her husband who works part-time in construction only suffices the entire family’s necessities.
Bansag has once received free tooth extraction procedure at the Tzu Chi Clinic and was very satisfied with the service that the TIMA dentists gave. Now that she has another dental problem to face, Bansag trusted Tzu Chi to help her once again.
“I am already at ease with the service your (Tzu Chi) dentists are giving to the patients. People from your foundation are very kind and very approachable. They never fail to look after the welfare of people. I am very thankful because you have answered our request for free dental service. Church volunteers like us can’t afford to go to Tzu Chi’s dental clinic because it is too far from here. We would rather use the money to buy food and other necessities. We thank you very much for your help!” she said.
Meanwhile, in the past 10 years or so, 50-year-old community volunteer Marieta Patricio has been very afraid to have her broken teeth extracted. However, she could no longer bear the pain of her tooth aches so she came to the dental mission early to finally undergo tooth extraction.
“I came here early because I really want to have my teeth removed for they are badly damaged. I’m so happy that Tzu Chi came here and offered free dental services as I really can’t afford to go to the foundation’s dental clinic. I finally have the chance to have my decayed teeth removed. I am glad that Tzu Chi Foundation does not choose the people they’d help and extends aid to those who are really in need,” the mother of four said before having her three broken teeth pulled out by local volunteer dentist Dr. Irish Leilani Salud.
Seeing the hard work of the three volunteer dentists of Tzu Chi in serving a total of 84 patients, where 55 underwent tooth extraction, 15 had oral prophylaxis, nine for dental restoration and five for consultation, the volunteer workers and parishioners of the local church were moved to support Tzu Chi’s missions by wholeheartedly giving donations to the coin cans of the foundation.
Among those who gave generous donations to the foundation is 53-year-old Cristina Javal who is a devotee of the local parish. In 2009, Javal was operated on by Tzu Chi doctors for the 800-gram parotid mass she had for 12 years on the right portion of her neck.
“After the mass on my neck was removed, I gained more self-confidence. I’m happier now because it’s not awkward for me to speak to people anymore. But now, I want to have my teeth extracted because they have been badly damaged for so many years which make me a bit embarrassed whenever I talk to people. So when I learned about the dental mission today, I didn’t hesitate to come as it has long been my wish to have my broken teeth extracted,” said Javal who came to the mission with her youngest child and two grandchildren.
Since the day her mass was removed, Javal has not been able to find a job because she needed to look after her grandchildren whose parents are always away for work or out looking for a job. The meagre income of the entire family is also just enough for their daily needs so she couldn’t afford to come to Tzu Chi’s Clinic in Manila.
“In our community, there is no free clinic so we are very thankful that Tzu Chi is offering free dental services. I told myself not to let this opportunity pass because I really can’t afford to pay for tooth extraction,” she said.
Now that Tzu Chi comes to her aid again, happiness fills Javal’s heart, “Tzu Chi will always be a part of my life. They have has always been there for me, helping me with my problems. I am so happy that my problems are always solved because of Tzu Chi. Thank you very much to Tzu Chi and especially to Master Cheng Yen.”
After witnessing the outpour of love from the Tzu Chi volunteers and dentists, who went beyond providing dental services as they also gave inspiration to the community to continue with their charitable works, 53-year-old parish social service coordinator Lydia Orbizo expressed her deep gratitude.
“We are very grateful to Tzu Chi because they have helped a lot of people here through their mobile dental service. A big number of the residents here is so poor that they cannot afford dental services from private clinics. We also saw the good service that the dentists provide. Ever since we met Tzu Chi volunteers, we have been seeing their kind-heartedness and pure intention to help the needy. Tzu Chi, being a Buddhist charity organization, is not particular with people’s religious affiliations. For me, the help they give is for everyone regardless of religion,” Orbizo concluded.