August 2020 Photo Update
Dear <<First Name>>,
To be honest, it is very challenging to both find and transport cases to/from the Tebow Cure Hospital for cleft lip and palate repairs. Lots of coordination regarding pick up and drop off points; limited seating allowed in vehicles. No or very limited physical contact; constant disinfection and regular testing of our drivers and workers.
Praise God, he continues to make our paths safe and for the families too, so they can have these life changing surgeries. Here are some samples of more than 50 cases schedules in the past 45 days.
Three or four appointments are usually required --- 1) screening and clearance + blood tests including COVID clearance 2) surgery admission/surgery/discharge 3) stitches removal and recheck. So for these 50 surgeries there were about 150 round trips required.
If the case is both cleft lip and palate, then this is repeated as another set of surgeries (often two) are needed for palate repair and then speech therapy. So another round of transports.
We find ourselves formally "advertising", for the first time, the available services in news and social media. Even though the services are completely free, many have to be convinced we are really telling them the truth about this opportunity, especially those from rural areas.
When you see the results, well, it is so worth the effort!
There are many who need these services, especially for palate repairs. Quite often cleft lips are repaired here via visiting medical teams. Palate cases are seldom handled by these teams as they take longer and require special medical clearances beyond what is needed for cleft lip cases. This year and probably for 2021 as well, there will not be visiting teams due to travel difficulties. So there is a gap in services.
We understand that approximately 25% of all cases are cleft lip alone, 25% are palate alone and 50% are cleft lip and palate. Palate children are the ones who have great difficulty speaking. So they silently suffer and often are looked upon as having low intelligence and are bullied -- also the mothers are bullied. They lose their dignity.
If repaired when young, they have a greater possibility of a normal life. Older cases can also be helped. Unrepaired cleft lip children are subject to discrimination and bullying. They have difficulty eating, as do the palate cases. As adults, both cleft and palate cases, if untreated, are challenged to find employment. Many of the cases in rural areas, drop out of school at an early age.
We often have up to four vehicles in use to transport cases along with taxis for those living close to the hospital. At this time, we are not allowed to house cases as in the past but are looking at some options.
All transportation, surgeries, medicines, even speech therapy is provided free of charge to the families. Smile Train Foundation partners with the Tebow Cure Hospital to support this program.
The Davao Region and most of Mindanao Island remains under what is called a Modified General Community Quarantine. This allows more movement but also has many requirements. Yesterday, a new law requires face shields and face masks for all public transport. We are providing free face shields to all those who are being transported by SOD. This is a small but appreciated blessing for the families.
In the Davao Region, (an area about the size of New Jersey with a population of 5 million), we have had some increase in cases but the government is doing an outstanding job in testing and isolating cases, particularly those arriving from other areas of the world (overseas workers or OFW) and those who have been stranded on other islands (locally stranded individuals or LSI).
In Leyte, things are hard. Drivers of the put put units are really challenged as to whether on not to continue operating. Income is 1/5th of normal. The MWF fellowship and feeding is greatly appreciated by the families. In this very hard time, the bonds are growing much stronger among the drivers.
Consistently, 45-50 drivers come by at mid-day in shifts, for the meal and fellowship. Protocols are carefully observed. Palompon has averaged only one case per week for the past month so things are looking much better than other areas. Palompon has a population of about 60,000.
The boat beneficiaries are fairing better as they are now able to fish and have more options for selling. One boat family last week asked Pastor Jonas and the team to dedicate a new fish cage.
In Padada, there was a recent jump in cases. For a time, we had to go back to online services. We are now allowed to operate again, with the required protocols. Face mask, temperature check, foot disinfection, physical distancing.
Last week, a new youth program was started called "Unplugged". Pastor Gerry reports "Unplugged is a name came from Colossians 3:2-- it is unplugging ourselves from the world. We are encouraging the young ones to live for God as a citizens of heaven not of this world. Around 50-60 youth are involved."
In Aplaya, Pastora Lazel and the team were part of a training program for those signing up for drug rehabilitation. A graduation ceremony was held on Monday. Bibles were given to many of the graduates.
The Aplaya Community Church celebrated its 5th Anniversary this weekend. No outsiders were allowed but a scaled down two-day celebration occurred. One day for youth, one day for adults -- due to distancing.
In Marilog, we were able to visit the schools this week, especially the Marilog High School of Agriculture. Yesterday, it was confirmed that school opening (online or modular) will be delayed nationwide to October 5th, There are no face to face classes, as children ages 21 and below are not allowed to attend classes and are supposed to stay at home. Pastor Undo from the Salumay Alliance Mission Center is helping SOD and meets regularly with the students. Earlier this month, I was honored to be the speaker for the high school graduation - online ceremony of course.
We could not gather the high school scholars but were able to meet briefly with the 2nd and 3rd year college students. It was great to see them for the first time in several months. Some clothing was passed on to them and was greatly appreciated. Their families are also having a very difficult time and it is very hard for them to market vegetables due to limited buyers and transport. We are investigating some options to help them with additional income.
While we are not able to work on club foot cases at this time, we are still in contact with past cases. We were able to send shoes from the Tebow Cure Hospital to Xryus and Kyrie in Leyte, so they can continue to become club foot free.
Please keep praying for the ministries here. We continue to pray for our friends, church partners, and family across the ocean. We greatly appreciate your financial support to help us to press on as God leads us during this time. We see challenges and opportunities to share the gospel in both words and deeds.
We also are saddened by some realities during this time. The Davao School for the Blind is now closed and unlikely to reopen in the future. The Balay Pasilungan is also closed for this school year.
We celebrate as well, as our Bible grant was recently approved and we are making plans for the distribution for 6,000 Bibles. Smaller groups, limited contact during the distributions; God's word is still needed among the rural church members as many do not have a personal Bible.
Blessed as we trust and adapt daily,
Peter Cowles for the SOD Board(s) and the grateful recipients of your prayers and generosity
Below is one of our local flyers in the Cebuano language for advertisement and recruitment.