The gift of healing from chronic and severe illness, especially for children, begins with hope. December 12, 2012 will always be remembered as a special day by the Bobadilia family. They live in a one room shack, in a rural slum in Rosario Tejeros Cavite, south of Manila. The oldest son, Paul is 14, suffers from hemophilia and can bleed to death from simple cuts and bruises. Although they live in Southeast Asia, they could be from any country in the world where millions of people live in extreme poverty. The mother, father and Paul’s two younger brothers and toddler sister live in a one room hovel, with holes in the tin roof and abandoned plywood walls… they have no television or computer. Just a wooden chair and wooden bed where the family sleeps together.
Paul is a very bright boy who loves to play the guitar and is extremely bright -- an award winning chess champion. But he cannot walk due to the damage caused by excessive bleeds throughout his life. He would like to pursue his abilities but is horribly bullied at school and called “a leper.” Regardless, he seldom misses a day of school, a one hour walk from their shack along rugged muddy paths. His father, a short but strong day laborer, carries Paul on his back everywhere. He carries him to school, back from school, to the hospital and back when he has bleeds or AAI provides Refacto coagulant medicines, outside to sit in fresh air and back into the shack... never complaining.
AAI staff first met the family on a home visit in November 2012 as part of our “Art of Hope and Healing” for cancer and rare diseases program supported by Global Giving. The family stated they would desperately like to get Paul a wheelchair. This would enable his mother to take him around and allow his father the opportunity to make some money in construction. His father is having more and more trouble carrying him as Paul grows up and is afraid the time will come when he will be unable to do so. They said, it would be a tragedy if Paul could no longer attend school and ends up confined to this tiny shanty for the rest of life. Because even though AAI is assisting with medicines to coagulate his blood, we don’t have the money to purchase wheelchairs and neither does the family.
On returning to Manila, AAI staff nurse Mariole Sumile reported the story of Paul to Executive Director Albert Santoli in Fairfax, Virginia. While AAI’s pharmaceutical partners donate astronomically expensive medicines for women and children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, Global Giving donors are providing funds to assist us in critical supplementary needs such as nutrition, transportation to and from hospitals, blood chemistry tests, psychological and morale building through art activities, and other patient needs. In Paul’s circumstance, the One World Institute in California donated an all-terrain wheelchair made of unbreakable materials and with flexible wheels.
On December 12, just two weeks after meeting the family, AAI staff returned with a surprise gift. On arrival in the crowded Rosario Tejeros community, Paul’s father Teresito was teary eyed when asked what they need. He said, “A wheel chair. Every time we go to hospital, the clinic is a flight of stairs and the hospital doesn't let them borrow a wheel chair because too many patients are in need. And I must carry Paul on my back.”
The attached photos show the family’s surprise and joy on receiving the wheel chair. Paul and his parents, as well as the entire Asia America Initiative community express gratitude to our Global Giving donors who have helped make this act of compassion possible. Healing does begin with Hope!
In October 2012, Asia America Intitiative's (AAI) Cancer Treatment Program for women and children in the Philippines began its second year of continued progress. During 2012, fifteen of the thirty original women patients were diagnosed as free of cancer after undergoing chemotherapy provided by AAI with the support of Global Giving donors.
Among the women whose lives were saved include a 51 year-old mother of two high school aged children, Lourdes Bilason. When she found out that she had breast cancer in 2011 she recalls, "I felt so hopeless and afraid that I kept on crying every night. My husband and I don't make enough salary that would allow me to afford medical treatments. There is a history of breast cancer in our family, I could not do anything to stop it."
In desperation, Loudes went to one of the oncology treatment centers that provides service to impoverished persons, which is also a partners of AAI where we provide medicines from inernational donors for no cost to patients. There she received a biopsy which confirmed she had a stage 2 cancer which required surgery and chemotherapy.
"I was crying and felt very hopeless. I was really praying and my only strength came from my family," said Mrs. Bilason
She registered in AAI's program and began to receive Tamoxifen. After one year of treatment and , she said, "I felt better and then I was diagnosed as cancer free."
Her doctors are keeping the monitoring of her condition and AAI is continuously helping her with nutritional care as she recovers from the treatment and its complications. Her advice to other women is "do not be afraid to be checked up on a regular basis because there is a medicine that can help you survive and prayer is also powerful."
"Thank you to AAI, to the kind people from Global Giving and to the wonderful doctors and nurses who helped me."
Although 15 women, including Mrs. Bilason's have overcome cancer through the AAI program. However, there are still fifteen other women in the program who are continuing their treatment. These women still need financial assistance for their treatment and to help AAI cover the cost of shipping medicines to the Philippines from the US and Europe. These women consider AAI and the Global Giving donors as their only source of hope as they are also having financial difficulties to support their families.
For instance, Mrs. Primitiva Sanchez, 53 years old with two children, was also diagnosed to have a breast cancer. She's been in treatment for 13 months. Although she's showing improvement, she's still has not completey overcome the illness.
"The Tamoxifen given by AAI has helped me to feel much better. I am very happy. Before, I was almost crying all the time. I feel so depressed. I thought I would never overcome the illness. But God has sent good people to help me with my medicines which are helping me to recover. "
As we begin the year two of the Art of Hope and Helaing Program, it is our intention tat Asia America initiative to do our best to provide the medicine to the doctors and nurses who continue to assist patients like Mrs. Sanchez to become fully healed. But we cannot do that without our donor partners from Global Giving. Pharmaceutical companies have responded by contributing close to 1 milllion dollars worth of medicines for women and children who are suffering from the life threatening illnesses. We are very grateful to them. And we humbly ask Global Giving donors to continue your generosity.
In July 2012, the Art of Hope and Healing cancer treatment program for indigent women and children ended its first year with encouraging results: Of the first 30 women in the program suffering from breast cancer who were placed and whose treatment was coordinated by the Philippine Cancer Society in Manila, fifteen have completed their treatment with Tamoxifen provided by Asia America Initiative with the support of Global Giving donors. All have been found to be cleared from the tumors that threatened their lives. The remaining fifteen women are currently completing additional hormonal treatment to prevent recurrence of the illness.
The medicines are donated by the National Cancer Coalition with headquarters in North Carolina and KrebsAllianz headquartered in Germany. The livelihood component of the Art of Hope and Healing has recently been joined by psyche-social mentors from the Health Futures NGO, accounting teachers from Micro Ventures, Inc and gardeners from the Armed Forces of the Philippines have volunteered to teach growing decorative plants and flowers and herbs for local restaurants.
While the health improvement in the program's women beneficiaries was heartwarming, most heartwarming surprise was the resilient smile, dancing and singing of 7 year old Pauline. When we first met her one year ago, she was not given much chance to survive due to a rare genetic disease. She had stopped attending school because of constant teasing by classmates due to her swollen mid-section caused by a radically enlarged liver and retention of fluid. Her family lives in a rural town a three hour drive on rugged provincial roads away from specialized treatment centers in the Capitol. Her parents could not dream of affording the medicines and professional care that would save her life. But thanks to the medical programs of AAI and support from cancer treatment and rare diseases organizations in the United States, Europe and the Philippines, Pauline has made a wonderful recovery.
On July 26, the AAI team visited the Pediatric Rare Diseases Ward at Philippine General Hospital where we met with Pauline and 13 year old twins Fatima and Erika who were all undergoing intravenous treatment. We joined them in celebrating their respective July birthdays with their families and the doctors and nurses who care for them. While they dream of being school teachers some day, AAI is hoping to continue our medical support of these very special children until a more long term and less arduous medical treatment is discovered.
The support of the more than 150 Global Giving community of donors is essential to sustain our program. We are profoundly touched by the support shown by those partners who share the $10 or $20 they can afford. We believe that "Every life does matter." And we appreciate that you are there in support of those children such as Pauline, Fatima and Erika.
For Mothers Day we are especially focused on our Cancer Treatment for Women and Children program with growing support from outside and inside of the Philippines. We trying to build this program into a widespread international model with an emphasis that extended communities can make a difference in caring for the most underserved and underprivilieged members of societies. We are finding that "small miracles" can happen when people from corporate and private sectors choose to work together. Some people who have been blessed to overcome terminal disease [including program Director Albert Santoli] choose not to hide from life or pursue selfish "bucket lists" but give back to humanity with the support of many wonderful friends and allies. Visual arts, music and psycholical techniques to overcome feart and build a strong positive attitude is now integrated into our holistic treatment program. Please see the attached photos.
Asia America Initiative's program in the Philippines is structured to provide Medical Treatment, Basic Education and Vocational and Art Instruction to impoverished women and children with cancer. Due to extreme poverty, our cancer patientswere presumed to have their lives doomed to pain, suffering and death. Thanks to our donor partners, espcecially the GlobalGiving community the "kindness of strangers" effort is continuing despite a worldwide shortage in production of leukemoia medicines for children and other critical medicines for adults. In the first stage of our GlobalGiving partnership, donors helped us to provide supplemental medical assistance to ongoing treatment programs where 30 women and 20 children -- whose families earn less than $3 per day -- were at risk to have their treatment stopped. That would have placed their survival in serious danger. Thanks to the cancer treatment advocacy organizations in the United Staes and Europe, AAI has provided Tamoxifen chemotherapy medication for breast cancer patients and we have used funds from Global Giving donors to help coivesr the cost of additional supplemental medicines to address debilitating physical side effects and meals and some nutritional needs. All of this at no cost to the patients. We could not succeed without our incredible medical, artistic, educational and psychological volunteers and GlobalGiving members' heartfelt donations that have played a key role in keeping the childen and women, some of whom are mothers of young children, alive and in a healthy emotional and psychological mode.
Dr Jaime Galvez Tan, is the Former Secretary of Health for the Philippines and a reknowned holistic medicine practitioner combining both Western and natural medicines and psycho-therapeutic techniques is AAI's senior medical advisor for our Cancer Treatment Program. He says, "In serious diseases such as cancer, in addition to medicine and competent physicians, the art of healing depends upon a patient -- whether an adult or small child -- to overcome stress and fear by developing a strong will to live and the love that surrounds them. Asia America Initiative's cancer treatment program integrates the joy and hope of arts and education as inspirational compnents in the healing process."
Asia America Initiative's program in the Philippines to provide Medical Treatment and Vocational and Art Instruction to impoverished women and children with cancer has entered the next stage of life saving activities. The first stage involved supplemental medical assistance to ongoing treatment programs where women and children -- whose families earn less than $3 per day -- were at risk to have their treatment stopped. That would have placed their survival in serious danger. AAI has provided Tamoxifen chemo medication for breast cancer and additional supplemental medicines to address debilitating physical side effects, at no cost. We could not truly succeed without Global Giving members' heartfelt donations that have played a key role in keeping the women, some of whom are mothers of young children, alive.
Dr. Roberto Paterno, Chairman of the Cancer Society states, "Going beyond the medical treatment program is much needed for breast cancer patients. Much has to do with their psychological needs. The AAI program is a welcome development since most organizations can only afford some of the total healing needs. Cancer patients are different than others because their healing period needs longer time. Thus, patients have to think positive and do activities that give them more to live for. And hopefully, prepare them for the future they most want to have."
The process of entering the second stage which involves the gradual buildup up to up to 20 small children and 30 women on long term treatment was slowed down by a world-wide production and availability shortage of key leukemia treatment medicines, which still has not been addressed adequately. [Please see attached New York Times articles.] However, AAI has received assurance from a mid-sized American pharmaceutical company which has production facilities in Asia to produce the needed medicines at a much reduced rate. Our partners at the Kythe Foundation[for children with cancer] have thus far designated 9 children with leukemia -- ranging from one to nine years old --who are preparing to start treatment [see their photos attached] as rare specialized medicine is purchased by AAI. The oncology treatment centers are at the National Children's Hospital and Santo Tomaso Hospital in Manila. In addition, the largest hospital system in the Philippines, Veterans' Hospitals, has the largest population of female cancer patients and has requested to be included as an AAI partner in the program.
While preparing the next stage of the Cancer Treatment for the Poor program, we have stepped up our treatment assistance program with the Philippines' National Institute of Health to sustain the lives of children with rare genetic diseases and hemophilia [bleeding illness] with the support of wonderful corporate donors such as Genzyme Corporation and international humanitarian foundations. AAI, our partners in the Philippines such as Kythe, as well as the women and children whose lives are being saved and are living symbols of hope, send you our profound gratitude.
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