Diplomas, Not Diapers!

by Roots of Health
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Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
Diplomas, Not Diapers!
ROH 2021 Impact Graphic
ROH 2021 Impact Graphic

Dear Supporter,

Happy New Year! I hope you are all safe and healthy and have started off 2022 well.  

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for us in Palawan. The end of the year was quite stressful and traumatic because on December 17, 2021, we were hit by Super Typhoon Rai (locally known as Odette). Intense rain and wind lasted nearly 20 hours. The storm knocked out our power, water, internet and cellular services. It ended up taking 5 days after the storm left Palawan for cellular service to be restored. During that time we had no way to communicate with the outside world, and this is one of the reasons why Palawan has not made the news in the same way that other areas affected by the storm have. 

Thankfully, our community in Puerto Princesa are all safe. Despite extensive damage to electrical posts and trees, we fared well compared to the northern outskirts, and to the central municipalities of Roxas, Dumaran, and Araceli, where the eye of the storm passed. These areas are completely devastated. In some villages, nearly 100% of all structures have been damaged. The livelihoods in this area were agriculture and fishing. Both of these have been decimated. All the trees and crops have been destroyed, as have the fishing boats. The sea is still muddy from the amount of soil that the rivers dumped in the bay. Most people are sheltering in local school buildings, which are also damaged. Loss of life was mercifully low, but the damage to infrastructure and agriculture is estimated to be at least 7.8 billion Pesos

To help address immediate needs, we are partnering with a local water and sanitation nonprofit called A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW). ASDSW are experts in responding to humanitarian emergencies. We are also working with local governments in Palawan’s affected areas so they are proactive participants in their own recovery. In the immediate days after the storm, we capacitated local health and development workers to conduct rapid needs assessments within communities to identify the greatest needs. 

We are now starting to provide short-term and long-term water, sanitation and hygiene interventions to reduce the impact of water borne diseases, increase short-term food security while also stimulating local markets, and allow people to rebuild their houses stronger. We will also support other health-related needs, including contraceptive and prenatal services, support for the local barangay health centers, and COVID-19 related response. 

As we continue to brave the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing relief efforts from Typhoon Odette (Rai), we are proud to report back to you on how your support continued to make a difference in the lives of so many Filipinos in 2021.

The Philippines continues to be under the longest, most restrictive lockdowns in the world. Although a few schools reopened in December for the first time since March 2020, all schools are once again closed due to the exponential surge in COVID-19 cases after the holidays. As the pandemic put more women and young people’s lives at risk, we made sure we could keep providing life-saving essential services, education and stakeholder trainings.

Here’s a quick recap of what we couldn’t have done without you!

SERVICES 

We knew that COVID-19 lockdowns would contribute to mistimed and unwanted pregnancies.  During COVID surges when movements have been limited, we’ve provided our clinical services in communities, going door to door when needed, to give our clients the peace of mind that continued contraceptive access brings.

In 2020, we installed safety measures and put an appointment system in place, in order to minimize COVID-19 risks to our clients and clinical staff. In 2021, we were able to renovate our clinics, in order to provide safer, more efficient services as we brave the new normal. We also made sure that our frontline workers stayed safe from the pandemic. As soon as COVID vaccines were available to our staff in March 2021, all our staff got vaccinated. 

Since many young people remain vulnerable to HIV infections during the pandemic, we relied on our community-based screeners in 2021, especially for young people unable to travel to our clinics.

In 2021, you helped our organization:

  • Provide nearly 15,247 women and girls with their contraceptive of choice, ensuring that they do not have an unplanned pregnancy;
  • Support over 205 pregnant women and girls; and
  • Screen 349 clients for HIV, 5 of whom were referred to a treatment facility.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Many young people still have a lot to learn about sexual health. Before COVID-19, we traveled to different schools all over Palawan, including far far-flung islands and remote municipalities. We taught classes about puberty, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and other sexual health concerns. 

As schools have been closed since March 2020, we’ve been unable to conduct in-person education sessions for large groups, or in schools. We’ve pivoted our programs online with information sharing and consultations, as well as online webinars, so women and young people can still access information on pregnancy, contraceptives, HIV, and other sexual health issues.

We converted existing materials into bite-sized social media posts that are easily readable and comprehensible for online audiences. Through various social media pages, we were able to deliver information on sexual and reproductive health to the people who needed them. Around mid-2021, we launched our Tiktok channel to reach more young people, and towards the end of this year, we launched a new Tagalog-language website about reproductive health for women, young people, and other stakeholders such as parents, teachers, health workers, and local legislators.

In 2021, we were able to:

  • Teach 3,368 high school and university students online
  • Reach a total of 4.7 million Facebook users with information on reproductive health
  • Get 14 million views on reproductive health videos on Tiktok
  • Answer 14,915 messages about reproductive health received on our social media pages

SYSTEMS STRENGTHENING

We continued to support our government counterparts with the creation of local legislation that supports reproductive health services and education. Despite the mobility restrictions due to COVID-19, health centers did not have to worry about contraceptive stockouts, thanks to the logistical support we continued to provide, especially as lockdowns continued.

We contributed personal protective equipment for health care workers in Puerto Princesa. Frontliners and persons under quarantine for COVID-19 were also given free contraceptives and HIV screening. We also provided support to our local government through the creation of an online vaccine registration system.

As things slowly started to normalize, we conducted more community-based information and education campaigns through local Youth Councils and regional health units all over Palawan.

In 2021, we: 

  • Trained a total of 1,892 reproductive health allies, including Youth Council members, community health workers, service providers, nurses and midwives. We focused the sessions on how to make their services more youth-friendly, and how to continue providing reproductive health services during the pandemic. 
  • Conducted community outreach sessions through the Youth Councils and provided RH education to 3,192 young people in 6 municipalities and 23 local communities (barangays). 

Despite the greater uncertainties and crises we faced in 2021, your support made this all possible. Thank you for continuing to believe in us.

We are excited to continue our important, life-saving work to make 2022 safer for more Filipino women and young people. 

Thank you again for being our partners in improving lives and creating beautiful futures.

With gratitude,

Amina

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First online Pride event for our city!
First online Pride event for our city!

Dear Supporters,

Greetings from Palawan, where our COVID-19 situation has stabilized, allowing our teams to carry out multiple mission trips and outreach sessions. 

Thanks to your continued support, Roots of Health continues to advocate for the health and rights of all Filipinos, especially those who are most disadvantaged by the pandemic. Included below are some of the things we’ve been up to since June. 

COVID-19 exposes more women and young people to unplanned pregnancies, HIV, and other health risks. Thanks to your continued generosity, we are mitigating some of these risks and supporting Filipino’s health and rights. Thank you for being our partner in ensuring better futures. 

With gratitude,

Amina

 

First Virtual PPC Pride

In celebration of Pride Month last June, and in protest against the continuing discrimination and violence suffered by the LGBTQIA+ community, ROH spearheaded the first virtual Puerto Princesa City Pride Event. 

 

On June 25, our Media Team hosted  “RAVAARRN: Revolt Against Violence, Activate Allies, Rise as a Rainbow Nation” via Facebook Live. “Ravarn” is gay slang for “laban,” the Tagalog word for “fight.” The event featured discussions on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE); self-acceptance; how to be an ally; and the fight for stronger policies against gender-based discrimination. Various LGBTQIA+ organizations and individuals around the country also participated by sharing solidarity messages, calling for gender equality and freedom from discrimination based on SOGIE. 

 

Going Digital for Adolescent Health

Despite ongoing quarantine restrictions, our teachers continue to bring comprehensive sexuality education to young people. School administrators see the need to keep educating young people on how to safeguard their health, especially during COVID-19. Teachers from our Youth Team were able to gather students from different schools online and inform young people about how their bodies work and how to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

 

Community Outreach 

As government health workers continue to focus on COVID-19 response and vaccinations, ROH continues to ensure that reproductive health services remain available to women and girls, especially in communities. Our Clinical Team has been busy going around different local health centers, not only to provide services directly, but also to ensure that these community facilities do not run out of commodities such as birth control pills and injectables. 

 

The Roots of Health Way

After providing over 18,000 women and girls with access to contraception in 2020, almost 9% more than the previous year, we are now happy to share how we were able to achieve this significant victory over pandemic-related challenges.

 

In partnership with WomenStrong International, we developed “Communities, Contraceptives & COVID-19: Ensuring Continued Access to Reproductive Health Services in the New Normal."

 

Featuring colorful illustrations and photos, this easy-to-read guide is an anthology of best practices in providing community-based services and our model for youth-friendly clinics. We compiled these from experiences on the ground working with women and young people, especially as the pandemic compelled us to come up with new approaches to providing reproductive health services.


Youth Leaders for Healthier Localities

Young people remain vulnerable to sexual health risks as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise and lockdowns continue. That’s why our Youth Team trains local Youth Council leaders. These youth officials are elected in each local community, and they are in the best position to advocate for adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) within their communities by creating and implementing local ASRH programs. 

These programs include the creation of respective committees on health in each community, as well as creating and adopting youth-friendly policies and programs in their local health centers.

 

Youth Council Outreach Program

Youth leaders who attended the Youth Council training immediately created and implemented an outreach program for the benefit of their constituents. These young leaders see the need to keep educating young people in their communities on how to safeguard their health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outreach focused on correcting popular myths and misinformation about pregnancy and contraceptive methods, HIV/AIDS, concepts such as sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and Sex Characteristics, as well as the very timely need to create safe spaces for everyone.

Digital teaching for reproductive health
Digital teaching for reproductive health
Community-based outreach for contraceptive access
Community-based outreach for contraceptive access
Youth Council Training
Youth Council Training
Youth Council Outreach Sessions
Youth Council Outreach Sessions

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Our team in Balabac
Our team in Balabac

Dear Supporters,

I hope you have been well for the last three months.

Unfortunately, since my last update, Puerto Princesa City has been experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases. 

To address this, the city government imposed a hard lockdown on the five communities (barangays) with the highest number of cases at the end of April. Unfortunately, this lockdown did not do very much to curb transmissions, and our cases have continued to increase. On June 1, the national government put our city back on the second strictest quarantine lockdown to help the city health officials regain control over our COVID situation. 

For now, this means we can continue to keep our clinics open, and can conduct training sessions online. We have had to put our in-person training sessions and plans for outreach missions to other areas of our province on hold. We hope to restart these by the end of June or whenever restrictions are lifted. 

On a more positive note, we’ve been very busy in the last two months. I’ve included some highlights from April and May below. 

I hope you will all continue to stay safe and healthy!

With gratitude,

Amina

 

Boating Down South for HIV Prevention 

Many isolated areas in the Philippines, especially Palawan, still do not have access to HIV testing. This is one roadblock to early detection and treatment, which are essential to curbing the spread of HIV. This is true especially for places like Balabac Island in the southernmost tip of Palawan, which does not have HIV testing facilities. 

To address this, two of our HIV Screening Trainers, Ivann and Bobby, traveled four hours by van and three hours by boat, navigating bumpy roads, huge waves and crocodile-infested waters to reach Balabac. But all their efforts were worth it. They were able to train 23 people, including health care workers, youth leaders, and teachers, to be community-based HIV screeners. 

Thanks to our new screeners, anyone in Balabac can get a rapid HIV screening and get results in just 15 minutes.

 

Spreading Generosity

The new COVID-19 strains may be highly contagious, but it still hasn’t spread as rapidly as the #CommunityPantryPH movement in the Philippines. It started when one woman in Maginhawa, in Manila, put up a stall with the sign that translates to, “Give what you can, take what you need.” As more people donated, more people were also able to benefit from it. 

In just a few days, over 300 community pantries sprouted nationwide, including one in front of our office building. Thanks to the generosity of the people of Puerto Princesa, we were able to sustain it for five days with a steady supply of canned goods, eggs, vegetables, and rice. Almost 600 people lined up for food to survive the lockdown, until we had to close it together with our clinic and office.

 

Online Vaccine Registrations

Deploying vaccines to millions of Filipinos is no easy feat. However, with the right technology solutions and data management systems, health care providers can streamline the vaccination process, cutting down wait times and reducing exposure risk to vaccine recipients.  To help our city government roll out vaccines, Roots of Health has entered into a joint venture with A Single Drop For Safe Water and DSA Software Solutions, to help the Puerto Princesa local government with vaccine registration, data collection, management and reporting systems.  We’re proud to work with our stakeholder partners to get Puerto Princesa vaccinated!

 

Stronger, Healthier NeighboRHoods 

In the month of May, our dedicated clinical staff provided 471 women with contraceptives through community outreach sessions.

On top of that, we also provided community health centers with supplies such as birth control pills, condoms, and prenatal vitamins. Providing these supplies to government health centers is an integral part of our systems strengthening work. It allows us to multiply our reach and bring reproductive health services closer to the communities. When these commodities are more easily accessible, more women and young people are better equipped to avoid unplanned pregnancies, even when their movements are restricted. 

 

Our Community Pantry
Our Community Pantry
Electronic registration for the COVID vaccine
Electronic registration for the COVID vaccine
Continued contraceptive services during COVID-19!
Continued contraceptive services during COVID-19!

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Our 2020 Impact!
Our 2020 Impact!

While 2021 has had a bit of a bumpy start, we were definitely glad to put 2020 behind us. Despite all the challenges that 2020 brought, we are delighted to report on everything you helped us accomplish.

 

COVID-19 created so many challenges to the work we do. But because the pandemic put more women and young people’s lives at risk, we knew we needed to make sure we could keep providing life-saving essential services, education and stakeholder trainings.

 

Thanks to your support we managed to continue providing all this in 2020, and more.  Here’s a quick recap of what we couldn’t have done without you!

 

SERVICES

With our programs and services, many women and young people were still able to access birth control, despite restrictions on their movements. Our clinical staff traveled to remote areas for women and girls who could not make it to our clinics. As soon as we were allowed to reopen our clinics after our lockdown closure, we installed safety measures and put an appointment system in place, in order to minimize COVID-19 risks to our clients and clinical staff. During the latter part of the year, pregnant women were again able to access prenatal care, as we resumed providing this service in our main clinic. 

 

In 2020, you helped our organization: 

  • Provide nearly 18,383 women and girls with their contraceptive of choice, ensuring that they do not have an unplanned pregnancy;
  • Support over 75 pregnant women and girls; and
  • Provide nearly 2,859 prenatal checkups and free prenatal vitamins:
  • Screen 189 clients for HIV;

 

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Many young people still have a lot to learn about sexual health. Before COVID-19, we traveled to different schools all over Palawan, including far far-flung islands and remote municipalities. We taught classes about puberty, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and other sexual health concerns. 

 

Since Philippine schools have been closed since March 2020, we’ve been unable to conduct in-person education sessions for large groups. We’ve gone online with information sharing and consultations, so women and young people can still access information on pregnancy, contraceptives, HIV and other sexual health issues.

 

We converted existing materials into bite-sized social media posts that are easily readable and comprehensible for online audiences. Through different Facebook groups for various stakeholders, such as parents, young people, health workers, and teachers, we were able to deliver information on sexual and reproductive health to the people who needed them. 

 

In 2020, we were able to:

  • Reach a total of 3.6 million social media users with information on reproductive health
  • Deliver information to 1,713 people in Facebook groups
  • Answer 12,577 questions about reproductive health received on our clinic pages

 

SYSTEMS STRENGTHENING

We continued to support our government counterparts with the creation of local legislation that supports reproductive health services and education. Despite the mobility restrictions due to COVID-19, health centers did not have to worry about contraceptive stockouts, thanks to the logistical support we provided, especially when lockdowns began.

 

We contributed personal protective equipment for health care workers in Puerto Princesa. Frontliners and persons under quarantine for COVID-19 were also given free contraceptives and HIV screening.

 

Large gatherings were not allowed, so we had to scale down our training sessions with different stakeholders and trained them in much smaller groups instead. In 2020, we trained a total of 408 reproductive health allies, including youth council members, community health workers, service providers, nurses and midwives. We focused the sessions on how to make their services more youth-friendly, and how to continue providing reproductive health services during the pandemic.

 

Despite all the uncertainties and crises we faced in 2020, your support made this all possible. Thank you for continuing to believe in us.

 

We are excited to continue our important, life-saving work to make 2021 safer for more Filipino women and young people. 

 

Thank you again for being our partners in improving lives and creating beautiful futures.

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Our truck now doubles as a mobile clinic!
Our truck now doubles as a mobile clinic!

We have now entered the last quarter of 2020, and have passed 6 months since the coronavirus pandemic changed our world. Since my last update in June, Palawan has continued to be on modified community quarantine, which requires everyone to use face masks and face shields whenever they leave their home, limits the number of people who can gather together in person, and continues to restrict the movements of people, including young people under the age of 21. Private schools began online classes in August, and the public schools resumed last week. The Department of Education is employing blended learning techniques, and in Palawan, this entails parents picking up school packets for their children on Monday, and returning them answered on Friday. We have been told that there will be no in-person schooling until 2021, or until there is a readily-available vaccine.

While we cannot teach young people about their reproductive health in person, we have been engaging youth with informational and educational materials about reproductive health online using Facebook. In addition to generating content targeting adolescents, we have also created online groups for other people that influence the youth - groups for youth leaders, for parents, for teachers, and for community health workers. We believe that the more these stakeholders know about adolescent sexual and reproductive health, the better they can support young people in protecting their health and futures.

Since young people and women still need contraceptive services, we have continued to operate our clinic with strict safety protocols. We have also continued to provide community-based services to people who request them, so that they can access their contraception from the safety of their own homes and communities. As long as our services are needed, we will continue to ensure that we meet the demands of our clients to help them protect their health.

I thank you for your continued support, and I hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy.

A young woman receives DMPA: 3 months' protection
A young woman receives DMPA: 3 months' protection

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Organization Information

Roots of Health

Location: N Ferrisburgh, VT - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ROHorg
Project Leader:
Amina Swanepoel
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Philippines
$10,433 raised of $12,000 goal
 
171 donations
$1,567 to go
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