Letter from the Philippines

I had the opportunity to join a medical mission recently, just as a roadie, moving supplies & equipment but I was able to see the best and worst of humanity all in one place.

The doctors, dentists, and nurses were giving their time and expertise for free to the poor community and a wealthy sponsor paid for the medicines and transport. Several hundred people came and received whatever treatment they needed but could not afford... which was a wonderful thing to see. As Christians the motivation of the workers was really to bring the love of God to the people through sharing their skills.

The venue was a primary school and we set up shop in the different classrooms for the various services on offer. I couldn't help noticing how run-down the place was though. In the classroom I was based in for example there was only 1 light fitting that still worked, the ceiling fan was broken, the roof in the bathroom was full of holes and as it rained that day was unusable. The only classroom equipment was a broken cassette tape player with the door missing and a circa 1990's computer which I am sure had little purpose.

In the afternoon a convoy of brand new, top of the range, 4x4 vehicles descended on the site. The local politicians had arrived for an impromptu photo shoot, to pretend to their constituents that the medical mission was their initiative. Suddenly it was clear where the budget for the school had gone. Low level politicians receive a minimal salary but, as Cardinal Tagle put it recently, often use the budget as their own 'piggy bank'. Even the cost of one of these 4x4's would be more than enough to cover the repairs needed by the school, fans and light bulbs, corrugated iron roofing and enough left to fill it with books and computers. As a friend pointed out, 'the politician's children don't go to that school though'

It was a stark contrast for me to the see selfless service of the medical teams up close to the rank self-interest of the officials.

Here in the Philippines, So few, steal so much, from so many.

Yours Sincerely



Stephen Clark