WMRI: Pride, Courage, Commitment-A A +A
My Palm Notes
Friday, September 20, 2013
HE IS a source of pride – not just for Capampangans but also for Filipinos and other Asians.
Why would not he be?
An affiliate of US television giant National Broadcasting Company (NBC) recently had a video feature on George Samson, our Cabalen from Magalang town who now heads the World Medical Relief, Inc., a humanitarian organization based in Michigan, USA.
It was a 4-minute news feature that was first aired few days ago on Detroit’s Channel 4 (WDIV, also known as “Local 4”) that was titled “Mission of Mercy in Danger Zones.”
The report, filed by the station’s Roger Webber, was about a recent outreach by the WMRI team led by its CEO – Kong George, as I call him -- to a place one organization or group may never dare go – Somalia.
(It can can be accessed through the channel’s web version http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/Man-s-mission-of-World-Medical-Relief goes-to-danger-zones/-/1719418/21932600/-/s3vkne/-/index.html)
The report. The opening narration first mentioned about the Somalis’ “reception fit for royalty” with corresponding video of hundreds of locals in their daily wear and costumes. They were standing on two lines clapping, dancing, celebrating the arrival of Kong George and party.
In that arid-looking place, there were children, women, leaders and other dignitaries who I presume to be medical practitioners, officers and members of NGOs or civic-spirited organizations and Somali officials.
It was held, I learned, at Armo District in the Bari region of Somalia’s Puntland where the WMRI brought some 500 pieces of hospital equipment like ECG and X-Ray machines, beds, crutches and many more for this East African nation.
Just like the thoughts of the channel’s reporter and Kong George himself, one (including this writer) will be surprised at how WMRI’s lifesaving mission was received with much enthusiasm and joy in that part of the world.
One must remember that Somalia is not exactly an “it’s-more-fun” place like the way Philippines is trying to project itself. A mention of Somalia would bring to mind the movie Black Hawk Down where the battle between locals and American forces was so fierce in and around Mogadishu, its capital. There are also travel advisories by governments and news accounts of the country’s kidnapping, pirates, murders.
Of course, there’s also this threat to US Citizens as the report cited and showed a June 21, 2013 advisory from State Department’s Consular Affairs “to stay away from Somalia.”
Risking lives. Did someone say that there’s danger in Somalia?
I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to lifesaving missions like that of WMRI’s that reached out there just this August. Kong George and party must have been apprehensive but concern for the well being of Somalis took over their worries.
WMRI’s mission to Somalia last month coincidentally came at a time when Doctors Without Borders announced an end to its 22-year presence in that country.
I am not really sure if Kong George was aware of this but the France-based humanitarian organization was pulling out because the “conditions in Somalia had become too volatile.” This is according to the Voice of America which quoted the group's international president, Dr. Unni Karunakara.
The report went on to say: "The closure of our activities is a direct result of extreme attacks on our staff in an environment where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate or condone the killing, assaulting and abducting of humanitarian aid workers."
“The relief group says 16 of its staff members have been killed in Somalia over the years. It also noted the 21-month abduction of two female aid workers who were released in Somalia in July.”
So, what brought WMRI, a Michigan-based American NGO to Somalia? Purely, a genuine concern for some 10 million people of Somalia who are caught in strife.
In return, the Somalis who received WMRI’s delegation were not only welcoming and hospitable. They showed warmth, recognition, elation, gratitude to the party led by our Cabalen.
It was sort of an unusual as the crowd waved American and Somali flags as they literally formed reception lines with eagerness.
Kong George himself, who first thought that a US mission may not be a welcome event in Somalia, was surprised of the kind of reception that he “thought was prepared for a diplomat or a person,” as the reporter said.
I believe that insofar as that kind of reception is concerned, Kong George was just being humble again. I have already heard of past receptions in other countries where WMRI’s delegation is treated like a royalty and UN-like diplomats where they are made to stay in presidential mansions and palaces. Again, out of gratitude to what WMRI is doing for their peoples.
Each dollar's worth. In my recent meetings with Kong George, he is so thankful to the benefactors, sponsors, staff and countless volunteers of WMRI. He recognizes the fact that without their valuable help and contributions their outreach missions he leads in countries (as well as their domestic programs for needy Americans) will not materialize.
In that news report, the contributions of some 2,200 volunteers were cited by Kong George and the reporter in the distribution of some $2 billion worth of medical equipment and supplies in over 100 countries.
This October 19, WMRI will be celebrating its 60th anniversary. What started as a vision and passion of a woman named Irene Auberlin who was touched by images of innocent children, women, even men who were displaced by the Korean War in the 1950s.
Her initiative and selfless efforts bloomed into an international mission that is life changing, life extending and life moving.
What a way to celebrate its anniversary too with its recent conferment of a 4-Star Rating (of possible 4 too) by the Charity Navigator, America’s premier evaluator of charity firms.
The rating highlights WMRI’s adherence to best practices and policies for “sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.”
For ordinary mortals like me, the rating means WMRI is spending each and every hard-earned donated dollar to its full optimized and intended use. It means WMRI accounts well for donations received and that it delivers the goods to those who need it the most.
Selflessness. In the Philippines, WMRI has a fulltime Ambassador of Health in Dr. David Zarate who also travel to strife-torn areas in Mindanao islands just to get medical supplies, equipment, medicines sent to needy hospitals and, thus, reach out to people in dire need.
He does not mind dodging bullets and rocket-propelled grenades between government troops and separatists, extremists, bandits, rebels, terrorists and what have yous in conflict-laden Mindanao. Goodness gracious, he was an inch close to Zamboanga City when the siege and firefight started there.
Also a Capampangan, he left his high paying medical practice in San Francisco, California to do something more fulfilling than just driving Beemers and Benzes. He is now based in Davao, something that makes WMRI services more beneficial and reachable to the people of Mindanao.
The likes of Kong George, a finalist in 2011 search for Outstanding Filipino Award, and Dr. Zarate, their benefactor-donors, partners, staff and volunteers are the kind of selfless people that we need more not only in Somalia, Mindanao but also in other parts of the planet where war has even made worse the access to medical services.
Take a bow WMRI. Their efforts in providing equipment and medicines for hospitals make doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners stay in their jobs (and missions) especially in war- and strife-torn areas.
After all, who would stay in his/her assignment if he/she has only himself/herself as there are no surgical tables, no dental chairs, no hospital beds etc.? Even the brightest and best doctors on the globe will not be able to perform what they are capable of doing without equipment and logistical support.
And that is the essence of one of WMRI's roles - to really make health care accessible through medicines, equipment and medical supplies.
Kudos to WMRI, its benefactors, donors, volunteers, officers and staff.
The planet needs more people like you. A victorious and joyous 60th anniversary.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 21, 2013.