Nicole (Ernst) Jackson here (Verne and Shawny Ernsts' daughter)! Sister Adams invited me to guest post on her blog to give a little background on the Mabuhay House in Manila.
My husband, Josh, and I (and our two boys) just moved back to the United States after living in Manila for two years. It was definitely an adventure! Josh works for Charity Vision, a charity with the goal to restore vision around the world. They partner with local doctors in foreign countries to provide surgeries to people who can't see. Josh spent two years setting up eye clinics in various cities and islands in the Philippines.
Mabuhay Deseret (now known as Charity Vision) was founded by Josh's grandpa (Dr. Jackson) over 30 years ago. He was called to be a mission president in Manila in the 80s. So he, his wife, and teenage son made the move across the world. While a mission president, Dr. Jackson was asked to be on the board of directors for a hospital in Taguig (a city within Metro Manila). As he visited different areas of the Philippines, he would find people who needed medical help/surgeries, but didn't have the money. The other doctors on the board at the hospital agreed to provide 6 free surgeries a month for people Dr. Jackson could find that needed help. And so began Mabuhay Deseret. Dr. Jackson chose to focus on people with club feet and cleft lips/palates, because his missionaries would be able to recognize those problems and refer them to Dr. Jackson. This pattern of working with local doctors grew and grew. (It is now a worldwide charity. Though Charity Vision has narrowed its focus to just restoring sight, they continue to help people in the Philippines with club feet, cleft lip/palates, and various other problems.)
Dr. Jackson and his wife continued their work in the Philippines providing surgeries. Eventually, because of the amount of people and surgeries they were facilitating, they built a halfway home in Cubao (another city within Metro Manila). They called it the Mabuhay House. This home serves as a place for patients from far away provinces to live while they wait, prepare for, and recover from their surgeries. It is an amazing place. People travel by bus, boat, and jeepney for hours and sometimes days to the Mabuhay House. Patients are accompanied by one family member or friend to help during their stay. Everyone helps with the cooking and cleaning and they all take care of each other. There are a lot of children with club feet, cleft lips and palates, and eye abnormalities. Many adults come to have surgeries to fix cataracts that have left them blind. People come to receive prosthetic legs. The patients are so amazing!! They sacrifice so much to come, many times leaving other children in the care of family back in the province. Even though the surgeries are free, they are all asked to provide some sort of "pay." People bring fish, crops, and money to show appreciation for their surgery. These patients are usually extremely poor. Somehow, despite their circumstances financially and physically, they are all so happy!
We spent a lot of time at the Mabuhay House when we lived in Manila. Josh worked in an office attached to the patients' living quarters. We saw so many people come with horrible medical needs and leave with new life and hope. We saw lives changed.
One boy, named Balong, was about 12 years old. He came with his mother Rose. Both his feet were completely upside down and turned backwards. He had stopped going to school because the other kids would make fun of him. He couldn't read or write. A single surgery wasn't going to fix his legs, so they put braces on his legs with huge metal pins that stuck into his bones. His mom had to rotate the pins every day to help gradually move his legs. It was an extremely painful process. Balong and Rose were at the Mabuhay House for almost a year. We got to know Balong and Rose really well. As Balong's legs started to look and function more normally, he started to change too. He started to take care of himself, like combing his hair. He had more confidence and excitement about life. He was also able to beat me at Just Dance on the Wii, which is not easy to do :) It was so great to see Balong and Rose finally go home.
When we first moved to Manila there was a teenage girl, Cherlyn, at the house. She also had problems with her legs that required surgery and casting for prosthetics. Cherlyn was extremely shy and spent most of the time alone in the rooms upstairs. Cherlyn also spent a long time at the Mabuhay House. She ended up meeting the missionaries and joining the Church during her stay. The day she got her new leg was one of the happiest moments. We all cheered and celebrated! Cherlyn was a totally different person. She was confident and happy.
Another amazing experience was with a little boy named Moi Moi. Moi Moi was 2 years old and lived in an orphanage by our house. He was almost completely blind due to cataracts. It was really sad to see a small child blind. He would have to be super close to see my face, so close our faces would be touching, and then he would touch my face all over with his hands to get a better understanding of what I looked like. He did that with everything, books, toys, food, etc. He came to the Mabuhay House and they were able to get him surgeries to restore his vision! He is now way more likely to be adopted and has a much brighter future.
(Patients with the missionaries)
These are just a few examples of the miracles happening every day at the Mabuhay House. On top of the surgeries, volunteers, like LDS missionaries, families, and various Filipino philanthropies, come and interact with the patients. They do things like singing, play games, teach hygiene, arts and crafts, throw parties, etc. The volunteers really make a difference and help the patients get through their challenges.
I love the Mabuhay House! I miss the patients. They had a love for life and sense of gratitude that I had never experienced or seen before. I wish everyone could go and experience the Mabuhay House.