Bukas Palad Foundation Inc., is a non-stock, non-profit and non-government organization. It is established in 1983, to respond to social and health problems of poorest people in Philippines.
The inspiring spark that started Bukas Palad was the visit of Chiara Lubich to the Philippines in 1982. She was appalled by the poverty she saw in some parts of the metropolis. Pressing for the commitment to «spend life for ones own people» she understood the big desire to do something, although nobody knew how to start. It. These were times when the social, political and economic groundswell of protest in the country was intense, it seemed like a signal for things to change. The decision was to do start together something concrete.
We received a place, an old dilapidated vinegar factory in Tramo, Pasay. It seemed to be the best indication where to start it.
The locality was ruled by gangs, drug trafficking was rampant as a means of livelihood, homes were so cramped that family members took turns in sleeping during the night, and health conditions of both children an adults were very crucial. The first activity was a rummage sale in order to find the financial support to renovate the place and for the setting up of a medical clinic where Physicians came rendering services for free. At the onset, the people were wary, and defensive. Too often, the help extended to them came with political strings.
Just the same they came for consultation, seeing a possible solution to the miserable health conditions. They soon discovered that there were no hidden motives behind the help but the sincerity to help them. Disarmed by the candid genuineness of those working there, a rapport of friendship was established. This made it possible for us to be able to identify their needs.
More than 90% of the children were malnourished.
Pulmonary and extra-pulmonary tuberculosis were very rampant, diarrhea, skin problems, etc. We started programs to answer these needs.
A remarkable fact is that Bukas Palad has become a meeting point for many who wanted to do something worthwhile, besides the medical service. It became the place of encounter for both the rich people and the poor. It was not unusual to see rich people cleaning toilets or doing carpentry work for the poor. On many occasions, when very ill patients needed to be rushed to the hospital and there was no vehicle around, somebody would send a chauffeured Mercedez Benz. There was something in the place that made everybody, poor people too, feel they belonged All were involved in a “generosity contest”. The poor dropped even their few centavos to donate something for the medicines they received. Solidarity among all opened a new perspective in the life of Bukas Palad. Material goods arrived in the most extraordinary way, and always on time, making it possible to expand the services it rendered.
Being the first activity that the center started, the point of entry for many poor families to get to know Bukas Palad has always been the clinic and the health programs.
Consultations are done by specialty in the different days of the week, focusing on the preventive aspect.
There are 12 physicians alternating on the different days. There is a small laboratory and a pharmacy where people can buy medicines at lower prices and also pay them little by little when they cannot afford them. A dental unit was given and when it got damaged with the years of use, a friend from Germany sent another unit improving the operations and the dental services. Now, extractions are done less, while dental fillings and prophylaxis are done more.
The Nutrition Program caters to malnourished children (50% of them were classified as 3rd degree), to pregnant mothers who are malnourished and to the tuberculous patients in the TB program who are malnourished.
Today many have graduated from the Nutrition Program and 3rd degree malnutrition has been eradicated. The nutrition Program includes both teaching the women a good nutrition and providing children with food.
Where before the mothers came only to bring their children to be fed, now they take turns in cooking for the Feeding Program, they also contribute money for the marketing, and they themselves go to the market, feed the children and, fix the whole place after the feeding.
In Bukas Palad, the physicians who come to consult feel that the solidarity that they have for the poor, is shared by others. For instance in Cebu, patients who have gastro intestinal problems are able to avail of otherwise costly procedures and medications by being entered as charity patients and thorugh their informed consent, they could be part in the researches availing of free work-ups and medications. The physicians who are into this field have agreed to do this service for the benefit of Bukas Palad patients. It has become a common effort to ameliorate the conditions of the less privileged, a small drop in the ocean of suffering but when faced collectively becomes an inspiration first of all for the physicians, and become a source of hope for those who are sick.
Bukas Palad has always tried to give particular attention to the individual needs of the persons who come for help. They are not cases not file numbers nor clients. One of these very many special persons is Vernaliza. She is now 14 years and she has Down’s syndrome. The mother died when she gave birth to Vernaliza so the grandmother took her. As a child, she is easily provoked and becomes aggressive. She was given lessons on a one-on-one basis, by a volunteer special education teacher. It was not easy but later, she learned how to mix with other children, and to smile. Having learned how to mix with other children, now she is enrolled in a regular special education school. She got well from her third degree malnutrition. She comes to Bukas Palad to lend a helping hand in the more simple chores.
Another time, a pregnant young woman who was a drug user, and a drug pusher, came for pre-natal check. This was going to be her 3rd baby. The man with whom she lived didn’t work so they lived in misery. Since she was quite thin, initially, we included her in the nutrition program. We tried to help her in her needs, visiting her at home. Little by little we noticed some changes in her. She stopped taking drugs and she found the courage to start a new life.
She delivered a healthy baby and she comes to Bukas Palad to help.
Bukas Palad has come a long way from its start 20 years ago. Work among the poor has grown and improved the quality of life of thousands, not just in the realm of the social and spiritual, but also in the medical aspect. Bukas Palad has more than 20 programs either in Manila, in Cebu, in Tagaytay or in Davao. Living its motto: «Freely we have received, freely we give», Bukas Palad provides an integrated and holistic approach to health and to promotion of the human development of people. Fast forward from 1990, the old vinegar factory has outlived its purpose. BP bought a piece of land from the government and a five-story building began to rise. At around this period, BP also expanded from Manila to Cebu, to Tagaytay, to Davao. And, up to now, the starting point in all these places has always been the opening of a medical clinic.
The Bukas Palad experience was presented in the 12th United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development last 2005. The US ambassador to the UN, Ann Corkery was struck by the presentation and commented that it is worthy to note that this group is faith based and maintains a deep respect for human dignity in all the activities.
To date, Bukas Palad has served around 50,000 people in Pasay and the vicinity. In Cebu, it is serving 1,500 families, in Davao more than 500 families are served as well as in La Union and Tagaytay. Through the rapport with the people and by treating them as brothers to love and as partners in the development rather than as mere recipients, they discover their dignity as children of God. Thus they are able to overcome the enslavement of poverty and become responsible not only for themselves, but also for the others. It has created an ‘atmosphere of communion where no one is so poor he or she cannot give, and no one is so rich that he or she cannot receive.
by IMELDA PALOMINO