Yesterday morning I had planned to stay in and relax a bit before going out to Good Shepherd’s center in Cebu, scheduled for noon. Jiji, a family friend who is showing me around, told me that we actually were going to visit a kid in the neighborhood around 9am first. Having learned from Doña over my visits to the Dominican Republic, one always needs to be flexible when abroad (first lesson Doña and Maria pushed on me). So I signed off on my boyfriend (sorry, Brian!), got dressed, and met Jiji outside her home.
I wish I had brought my camera but I didn’t. I’ll try to take some pictures of the neighborhood though and post them up — but it’s very similar to the DR and most Spanish-colonized countries.
We trekked through the area, walking through people’s properties, stepping over mangy dogs and cats, avoiding the free range chicken and sitting ducks, hopping on stones over muddy pits, and pushing aside tall grass and plants hanging in our faces. Not too long of a walk and definitely not as treacherous as some of those hilly, rocky, steep paths in El Baden, DR.
We reached a shack of a home where two women — a mother and grandmother — were sitting. The mother was perched on a bench with a bucket of shelled oysters on one side and a small bin of de-shelled oysters on the other. Knife in hand, she was swiftly breaking them open and cutting out the meat. Despite her rapid work, the bin filled up very slowly since oysters are so small. She explained that she had to walk very far to get the oysters and walk very far again to sell them. She could sell the whole bunch for about 8 pesos — equivalent to around $0.18 ro $0.19 USD — which was her income to feed herself, her mother, her 6 kids, and her mentally-ill brother.
She called over her 5-year-old daughter Grace* and pulled aside part of her hair to reveal to us a fungal infection. They were really concerned because it was getting worse and because it’s on her scalp so close to her brain. The grandmother explained that they went to an expensive doctor and were giving Grace Amoxicillin now but feared it was not doing enough though they spent so much money seeing the doctor and paying for the medicine.
For once, I was able to speak up and use some past knowledge!
In the years I visited the Dominican Republic, I was a “pharmacist” for our makeshift medical mission clinic. Essentially, I took supplements, prenatal vitamins, antibiotics, etc. out of their original bottles, divvied them into makeshift pocket envelopes (I’m a skilled envelope maker now also, bt-dubs) and wrote Spanish instructions on each packet of how to take the medicine and what the dosage was. Ghetto pharmacy work but it worked (will not go into that right now though).
One of the makeshift prescriptions I had to portion out and instruct on were bottles of Selsun Blue that I poured into small containers. These bottles were given out to the locals we saw who had fungal infections and skin rashes. Years later, a friend of mine from home had a bad skin fungus spread across her back and her dermatologist recommended washing her back with Selsun Blue — so it’s pretty legit! Always good to know that we’re not randomly distributing gobs of blue goo in vain.
So I told Grace’s grandmother and mother about Selsun Blue, a common dandruff shampoo that one can buy in most stores. Jiji told me that they did in fact sell this in the Philippines and that she would buy a bottle for the family.
I mentioned personal hygiene cautions as well. If Grace’s scalp was oozing as they mentioned, that meant there’s an open wound somewhere under her hair and it was important that they refrain from touching her scalp with dirty hands (the mother kept showing us the girl’s scalp by pulling back her hair with muddy-oyster-water hands). They explained that bathing had become tougher since the hand pump that provided water to the surrounding houses was broken. They now had to walk far to the next pump to fetch buckets of water, which are heavy and for which they have to pay. This led Jiji and me to believe that the fungal infection may have come from or worsened because of them not bathing Grace enough.
[via charity: water's photo of the day]
I was reminded of how great a need there is for water well/pump maintenance and repairs. Many organizations focus on building wells, which I am 100% for, but it’s important that we not only build wells but also provide education to the communities about how to care for their pumps and how to repaid them if broken. I’m super grateful for organizations that focus on the whole picture, like Lifewater International. Or awareness and advocacy campaigns around well repaid, like the one done by The Adventure Project.
Afterwards, we bought some food from a local vendor (literally a teenage boy sitting outside with pots and plates of home-cooked meats and veggies on top of a kitchen table) and brought it back to Grace’s family. We said goodbye and headed back to Rick & Jiji’s tutoring center for the children of the area.