PHILIPPINES: Frontline health care workers supported through housing
Salesians turn retreat house into home for frontline health care workers
(MissionNewswire) Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salesian Philippines South Province made a formal agreement with the Region 7 Office of the Department of Health to use its retreat house in Lawaan, Talisay City, as temporary boarding for frontline workers. These health care professionals had to isolate themselves, even from their families, for everyone’s protection.
Chester B. Hamoy, an alumnus of a Salesian school and a licensed nurse, said, “During the first few months, I was very scared. I was at a loss due to the sudden changes. I was also concerned for my safety due to people’s discrimination of health workers who were being accused of being carriers of COVID-19. I was also scared for my family since my father has comorbidity, and we live in a compound owned by my grandparents with relatives, some of whom are also senior citizens. That is why I decided to look for a place to stay so that I can be at peace that my family will be spared from the virus.”
Hamoy heard stories about nurses who were refused entry to their shared boarding houses and neighborhoods and of frontline workers doused with water by people afraid of the virus. The situation took its toll on him.
“When they offered accommodations at Don Bosco Retreat House, I did not immediately grab the opportunity because I really wanted to isolate myself even from my fellow front-liners,” explained Hamoy.
Medical professionals not only needed a place to stay, but they needed community support to get through the demanding physical and psychological job they had in front of them. Initially wary of each other, those who took refuge in the retreat house discovered a sense of community in their shared experience and struggle.
Hamoy said, “A lot of struggles came in—there was fear of the virus, safety, financial problems and family concerns. I was just so blessed that I was staying here. Attending the Mass every day made me forget my personal concerns for at least an hour. I was so fortunate to have Father Eugene with us. The support he gave did not just help me spiritually but also my mental well-being.”
Father Eugene Maglasang volunteered to stay with the frontline workers in the retreat house. He celebrated Masses for them, engaged them at meals and even organized a retreat for them in the mountains of southern Cebu. Those living in the house bonded together and supported one another as a community.
“I had the opportunity to make new friends in my stay here in the retreat house since 90 percent of the occupants were also working in Talisay District Hospital with me,” Hamoy added. “We had rules to follow, and we also had roles assigned to us. I have learned how to cook and tried to cook new recipes. It was a good diversion that we enjoyed outside work.”
The last of the health care workers left to go back to their own homes on May 10, 2021. Hamoy said, “I am sad right now because we are leaving. I am having separation anxiety. I did not feel it until yesterday when I was packing my things and trying to sort out what to bring and what to throw away. Seeing all my stuff made me emotional and I find it funny because I am not an emotional person. I became attached to this community after being together for one year.”
Since 1950, Salesian Missions has been providing crucial help in the Philippines—working with at-risk youth, impoverished families and disaster victims. Humanitarian agencies warn of the dangers faced by the most disadvantaged children in the Philippines. According to UNICEF, there are at least 1.2 million children between the ages of 5-15 who are out of school and are being left behind. In addition, children born into the poorest 20 percent of the population are almost three times more likely to die during their first five years as those from the richest 20 percent.
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Salesian Missions – Philippines
UNICEF – Philippines