Volunteer: Chris Keating

Volunteer
  • During:

    2011

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Bicol Clinic Foundation, Inc.
Philippines, 2011

My Incredible Bicol Journey

It is a long flight home coming from the other side of the world. The drone of the jet engines lull my tired body, but my mind still races flooded with the memories from the past 3 weeks. The adventures, the country, the friendships made, and the people in need stream past my mind's eye like a family reunion slide show.

I am returning from half way around the globe with one small backpack, a stethoscope, and an empowered spirit. I have just spent three weeks on a fantastic medical mission trip to rural Buena Vista, a small town in the Bicol region of the Philippines; a trip that I made with several other medical students and doctors sponsored by the Bicol Clinic Foundation. The Bicol Clinic Foundation, led by Dr. Mitchell Schuster, has established itself as a provider of free medical care to the underserved in remote areas of the world. BCF has treated thousands of needy people in the Philippines and other distant corners of the world such as Somalia, Niger, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and earthquake torn Haiti.

Most of the passengers on my flight are asleep as we pass across the dark, vast Pacific Ocean. Yet my mind wanders. I think back to morning at the clinic. It's 6 am and I'm just waking up to the sounds of roosters crowing in the distance. I dress in my scrubs and wander out to the porch adjacent to the volunteer housing. In front of me is a spectacular view of a glistening bay and looming volcano illuminated in amazing colors by the morning light. The fishermen are already hard at work casting their nets for the days catch and scooting around the shallows in their dugout canoes. The exotic smells of this new land fill my nose and awaken my excitement for the day to come.

There is already a line of people outside the clinic doors long before we open. Word of our arrival has spread, and those in need of medical care have travelled far and wide to be treated by us. There are so many in need. Some walk, some come by canoe, others pile onto buses, some are carried by family members. But they do come because this is their only chance for much needed healthcare; and perhaps hope.

As a medical student at the University of Miami, I have trained long and hard for this. I realize that with each person I treat, an uncommon gratefulness and respect is imparted upon me. This instills in me a confidence in my abilities and fuels my desire to make difference in the lives of the people I serve. In a single day, with the help of an international staff of medical providers, we are able to provide medical services and improve the health of over 150 patients, all of which would have been unable to receive any other healthcare. At the end of each day, walking the short distance back from the clinic to our living quarters with the children laughing and running after us, it's impossible to describe the emotions of pride, accomplishment, and empathy that fill our hearts.

As with all journeys, the physical journey has its end, but the journey of self discovery and emotional growth continues without restraint. Having provided medicine in the Philippines and witnessed firsthand the harsh reality of poverty, I can attest for the need of global outreach and support for those less fortunate then ourselves. I know this experience has left a lasting impression on my spirit and my soul. As I continue my path in the medical field, I will always remember the time I spent in the Philippines. I look forward toward the next adventure and the opportunity to contribute to the betterment of our global community.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts and sharing in this absolutely amazing experience. There are still so many in need, and there is still so much to do. Please take a moment of your time to look at the Bicol Clinic Foundation's website www.bicolclinic.org to learn how they are making a difference in the world one village at a time. Perhaps you too can support the Bicol Clinic Foundation's efforts to make a difference in someone's life. It truly has made a difference in mine.

I hope to see you down the road,

Chris Keating
Medical Student and Citizen of the World

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BCF has dispatched more than 100 medical students, in addition to dozens of American and foreign physicians and nurses, to provide care to more than 14,000 patients in the Philippines, Nepal and Haiti, many of whom had never before seen a physician. Our team members also volunteer in orphanages and schools to extend health care to other aspects of life. We’d love for you to be Part of the Start!

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