Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. On March 4th he visited the hospital and cleft center of the Philippine Band of Mercy, implementing partner of the Smile Train in Quezon City. His “Postcard” from the visit:
With a master’s degree focusing on the principles of sustainable development, my skepticism is piqued when I hear an organization offering “free” services (due to a corresponding lack of a sense of ownership and propagation of a “handout” mentality). After seeing the work that PBM does, I see that there are exceptions. Working exclusively with low-income families and primarily young children, PBM surgeons are able to remedy a cleft lip—an affliction still viewed by some in the Philippines as a “curse” able to “infect” others around you—in about half an hour. These patients have no other option and appeared grateful of what PBM does.
And PBM’s services are far from blind charity. As I wrote in a recent blog (link below), they are able to offer these free surgeries through smart management: keeping costs low and some creative financing. They run a Plastic Surgery Fellowship, which helps surgeons get specialized training. In exchange for the assistance, upon completing the course the doctors agree to volunteer time at the PBM facility. This helps them keep the costs for the surgeries down to about one-tenth of that of private practices, according to Jesus Perez Cardenas, the president of PBM. Their primary source of income, which covers much of the subsidized cost of the surgery, is not grants but selling extra space in their parking lot and office building in the bustling heart of metro Manila.
The hospital and cleft center were clean and seemed well run. The little patients and their mothers appeared to be well tended to before and after the surgery. Going between the two groups was moving. While not quite yet up for a smile, you could see that the recovering patients would not forget PBM anytime soon.
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Donor Relations Associate