Buddhist mission in Manila mends broken smiles
The gift of self-confidence, ribboned with a smile, finally came to youths from different parts of the metropolis who were relieved of an inborn condition thanks to a recent humanitarian project in Manila.
Barely a month after Katrina Advincula underwent surgery, the world is finally opening up for the 16-year-old. “I used to feel very inferior because I could not speak clearly,” she said, recalling how she grew up being teased often for her appearance.
Advincula and 10 other young people born with a cleft lip and palate underwent corrective procedures for free courtesy of the Tzu Chi Foundation, which held an outreach mission April 8 at Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC) in Tondo.
The project was a joint initiative between the Buddhist group Tzu Chi and Dr. Myra Elliot, a noted oral and maxillofacial surgeon who founded Global Clinic, a Singapore-based nonprofit organization composed of volunteers offering medical services for the poor.
“No child chose to be born with a physical deformity,” said Elliot, who had taken Global Clinic mostly around Asia and Africa, bringing along a growing team of medical practitioners to urban centers and remote locations. The touring volunteers use their own money and bring their own equipment, she noted.
In Manila, Elliot’s team and Tzu Chi members partnered to look for patients from Metro Manila’s depressed areas. The surgeons performed cheiloplasty, palatoplasty and alveolar bone graft on the beneficiaries.
Rosalie Manahon, a snack vendor from Old Balara, Quezon City, who brought her 4-year-old daughter Rizza for the procedure, said her child was supposed to undergo surgery last year but she could not save enough money for it out of her P300 daily earnings.
“I am very thankful to Tzu Chi Foundation because aside from giving rice and other relief goods to my neighborhood every year, it also conducts medical missions like this,” Manahon said.
Another grateful mother, Romelita Rivera, said her 7-year-old Tyron finally expressed confidence to go to school after having an operation. “He used to be very ashamed and would not interact with others.”
The patients would eventually learn to speak normally, according to Dr. Juan Sudgalen Jr. of MMC. “It only takes some practice and encouragement from the people around them.”
With roots in Taiwan, the nonprofit Tzu Chi Foundation was established in the country in 1994. Last year, it delivered about P1.2 billion in relief and rehabilitation assistance to survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in Tacloban City and other affected areas in the Visayas.
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