There they are. I see them jumping and yelling, grabbing at each other with shouts of “They’re here! They’re here!” There are always children in the basketball court but when our KIA van pulls up, they seem to crawl out of the alleys and swarm around the van as our team sets up the sound system.
The kids play games with some of our teamwhile others visit and I listen to various mothers who come to tell me of somegood things, but mostly bad thingsthat have happened since last Saturday. Someone brings me a chest xray. No, I’m not a radiologist but I have learned to spot tuberculosis.
I’m taken up the rickety stairs in a nearby home to look at an older woman.
Thankfully, I have learned to not react. Her feet are full of warts. Her body is unbearably itchy, she has been sick a long time. A man with a boil on his leg… or something. A huge bleeding, pussing, ulcer. I’ll get to that in just a little while, I say.
Nico’s stories get better every week and this week is no exception. Even the parents who hold to the fringes our of the crowd lean in to hear.
After the story, the kids break up into their groups of 20 in a pseudo-organized fashion. They colour their sheets, carefully sharing the 20 crayons that each group is delegated. Then they are given their meal.
The line has already started at the van for vitamins and simple primary health-care. I love how they push and shove. They get seen every week, almost all of them, but they still push, afraid they won’t get something. Anything, as long as its free. Most weeks there is one or two serious cases that I am so thankful to havebeen there to help. I say a prayer over every bit of medicine that I give out.
Project Lazurus…The patients that we are treating for tuberculosis now number almost 30 men, women and children. They come faithfully every week to get their meds. It is so rewarding to see them gaining weight and looking more alert each week.
We have lost only one patient so far in a year of treating this disease that has turned epidemic in this community.Each day, the medicine can cost up to 100 pesos. That is a meal for a family of 8. And the treatment is a minimum of 6 months. The average family could never afford this. So the disease is left untreated and left to spread. We are able to provide the meds for each patient for less than a dollar every day.
We are about to leave. The line up for medicine has only 3 or 4 mothers left. I am relieved until I see a crowd gather andone of our team calls me over. I am horrified but, I show no emotion. Some small talk with the mother, I pay little attention to the child who looks dead in her arms.I can tell the mother is not okay, maybe mentally ill, maybe just off. I get an address, as much information as I can. Imagine, she tells me the child talks and walks.
The drive home is long, I am tired, my emotions drained. So many in need, so many so thankful for our little bit of help and love among their children and loved ones. It is a place where the burdens they carry are so heavy. Just living day to day is a struggle. Sometimes, a pack of vitamins seems so useless but they do know we care. They know we come every week and we do not tire of them. They know we love them and I pray somehow they see that this love is of the Father, not of man.
I am honored to touch the least of these, the unloved, the forgotten. What a privilege to bring some hope, some gentleness and kindness into their harsh, cruel world. God has a plan for each one of those lives in Malabon, as desperate and lonely and hopeless as they all seem. What joy I have to be just a small part of that plan.