Sunday, February 9, 2014

Farewell TACLOBAN.........

Marina & Derrick

Our personal journey since Typhoon Haiyan is finally over. From the countless hours preparing for this eye care project, the massing of relief goods, the filling of containers, the hours comforting Evan and Emma that Mommy and Daddy will be safe, to the long days on our feet working in extreme heat and crushing humidity while listening to people begging to be let into the clinic and seeing the faces of desperation in the lines during the relief distributions…. it is hard to believe it's finally over, we are out of Tacloban.

We flew out from a broken shell of an airport with a hastily erected security and check-in. The concrete walls are mostly gone but the roof has been repaired.  We patiently waited while the deafening roar of jet engines died down in front of us.  Gone are the days of the body bags outside of the building and the putrid smell and the thumping noise of military choppers moving goods in and out.  The flight to Manila was full with 25 people on the waiting list trying to get out.  Is it because, they want to restart their lives elsewhere in a less dangerous place? 

I wonder, will the Philippine Government follow through with the hundreds of millions raised around the world or will the funds be absconded for personal use?  I wonder what will become of this place of homelessness?

We leave with images of incredibly resilient people, thanking us for coming, thanking us for helping, thanking us for giving them their sight.  Although the destruction is everywhere and inescapable, their faith has empowered them to move through the devastation and live life day by day.  We take home with us the spirit and strength of a simple people that must now rely on each other to survive.  

To all those at home who gave their time, their money, and themselves, we thank you.  You brought so many smiles and a little hope to these beautiful gracious and most deserving of people...THANK YOU. 

TINDOG TACLOBAN (Rise up Tacloban)

Friday, February 7, 2014



Today was a very emotional day. It was our last clinic day in the Tacloban/Samar area. The temp. was blistering hot, the line-up of patients was endless and the volunteers did not give up! Today we saw 784 patients. Yes, 784 in Basey Town Hall, Samar. Our total number of patients on this mission broke all records... 8,106 patients. 

 It was 34 degrees in the shade today… ouch hurt, hot! After the clinic the team made clothing deliveries to the local elementary school and to a nearby Barangay. While at the school, I visited the grade 6 class and chatted with them for a while. I asked the students why the classroom was so dark. In unison they responded “we have no hydro.” I asked about their school day and how many days a week that they attend school. In unison again the response was “seven days a week.” I then asked the principal why the children attended full time, 7 days a week. He responded that because of Yolanda, the children lost 2 ½ months of school and have to make up that time by the end of the school year!

Some classes are in tents

To my surprise, only one student was wearing glasses. I went over, sat next to her and asked her how long she had been wearing glasses. She replied “since yesterday, I got them at your clinic my old glasses were broken during Yolanda.” Back in my room, I went through yesterdays registration forms to try to find this young child’s form. Found it! Her name is Thea, age 12, the form read that she had broken her glasses during Yolanda, and it reads ”Robert pls. try to find a frame for current specs.” Derrick tended to her and wrote “Happy, fitted old lenses into a new frame” and he gave her a spare pair of glasses!



Yesterday was the last day of clinic, and in the end we saw over 8100 patients in the last 13 consecutive days.  Most of that in sweltering heat, and unusual conditions. 

Patients wait for the volunteers to dispense their eyeglasses

Dr. Suraj Upadhyaya tries to explain the concept of Tumbling E's

Visual Acuities done at the entrance of the Tacloban City Hospital

Line up for Autorefractor....also known as "Station 4"

Aerial view of the dispensary

Dr. Mark Cook and Dr. Shirlie Dowd remove a piece of metal  in a  patient's eye who has been in pain  for  a few days.

Dr. Christina Dinh at triage

Add caption

 MOSQUITO ALLEY- for some reason there was always a large concentration of mosquitoes in this hallway and the doctors and volunteers made sure they applied their DEET every 30 minutes.  Perhaps it was the no ventilation and the press of patients wall to wall.....

Dr. Lester survives  MOSQUITO ALLEY 

Dr. Brad McDougall, Dr. John Lam and Rodger Konkle go down the line up to register patients for the day

Our entire last day went so smoothly, some of us felt like we were being guided by a positive force....a karma payback maybe. In fact, my day started with a small gift:  as I walked out of the hotel in my TWECS clinic shirt an elderly woman approached me from across the street.  She had been waiting outside the hotel since early that morning so she could "thank one of the Canadian doctors" for her eye exam and new reading glasses. She shook my hand and blessed me. 

What a great way to start the day. The rest of the long, last day was typically hot and grueling, but so many incredible moments got strung together: a bad corneal ulcer on a little boy healing nicely from our care the previous day; finding exactly the perfect complicated prescription for a highly myopic girl's first, and long overdue pair of eyeglasses. Finding glasses that not only solved functional refractive blindness for many elderly, but that looked so individually customized to each one, I couldn't have done any better in my practice at home.

It has been an honor, and my pleasure, to be a part of helping restore vision and dignity to the kind, patient, and perserverant people of the Philippines. 

Tindog Tacloban!!

Dr. Brad McDougall

Thoughts from Australia.........

As I woke up the next morning to prepare for work after we had returned 
from Tacloban, I couldn’t help but think about what I would’ve been doing 
this morning with the TWECS group. We’d have been up by now, having 
breakfast at Kenny’s (Instant Coffee, Nutella & PB with Bread rolls) and 
preparing for our day and for the challenges of operating in a disaster 

Everyone would smile and wave as you passed by. Strangers 
would come up and, when possible, ask about who you are, say thankyou 
for coming, and take a photo. There were so many who were so grateful 
for the services that TWECS provided. Some shook hands, some hugged, some smiled brightly and kids beamed in happiness at the end of it. It’s so
humbling when people are so grateful towards you. It’s so nice to see 
smiles from strangers on the street, to play with kids you might never see 
again, to hear stories and absorb the emotion of those whom are still 
hurting. The feeling of happiness and sadness were, at times, 
overwhelming. Gratitude always endures. These people amaze me. 

As I sat in the Office on my first day back, a few of the Filipino ladies said Thankyou for helping.  I never expected that back home and before emotion overcame me, I politely deflected it and flashed back to Tacloban thinking I could be of more use. We must never forget Tacloban. 

Zayd Deen, Australia

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

T.E.A.M (Together Everyone Achieves Miracles)

Thank you T. E. A. M-

Brenda Tosoff, Maple Ridge BC Canada

Dr. Barry Lester- Smithers BC Canada

Dr. Brad McDougall, Vancouver BC Canada

David Sakaki, Kamloops BC Canada

Doug Higginson, Mill Bay BC Canada

Robert Dawson, Sechelt BC Canada

Rodger Konkle, New Westminster, BC Canada

Dr. John Lam, Victoria BC Canada

Dr. Kent Napier, New Zealand

Dr. Max Cheng, Los Angeles USA

Dr. Shirlie Dowd, New Hampshire USA

Dr. Mark Cook, Michigan USA

Dr. Shea Colpitt, Whistler BC Canada

Dr. Janette Penez, Manila Philippines

Dr. Suraj Upadhyaya, Nepal

Dr. Christina Dinh, Australia

Zayd Deen, Australia

Our Volunteers