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Boston and Beyond

January 28, 2014

Three for Philippine relief

After typhoon, North Shore residents volunteer to help

(Continued)

“There really wasn’t much I could do for her,” she said.

Armentia, who also served as translator, said that circumcisions, a rite of passage in Philippine culture, were frequently performed as life returned to normal. “I really appreciated their resiliency,” he said.

Gardner found himself treating people “who had never seen a Western physician.” Technology taken for granted in America, like mammography machines and MRI devices, were absent in this rural area.

The day started at 6 a.m. as the staff awoke on air mattresses in tents to the sound of roosters crowing and dogs barking. They took a big breakfast and set out in vans over flooded and washed out mountain roads, traveling from village to village. Even where there was a hospital, facilities were damaged, Armentia said.

“They need equipment,” he said. He helped deliver a baby despite the lack of a delivery table. “The parents named her after one of our volunteers.”

The Filipino people were welcoming and grateful.

“They were incredibly gracious,” Gardner said. “They were always trying to bring us food and gifts.”

“Warm, smiling,” Armentia said.

All unmarried, the three had varied reasons for their participation. Armentia, now an American citizen, wanted the chance to help people in the land of his birth.

“I really feel fulfilled,” he said. Moreover, with the job done, he went south to visit family in Cotabato Province, an area untouched by the typhoon.

After they were gone, another team arrived to fill the void.

Liebert, who is much traveled, hopes to continue with this work, perhaps helping to establish psychiatric clinics around the world. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.

Gardner pointed to a deeper meaning for their efforts, citing a phrase from the Talmud, “Whosoever saves even one life, saves all of mankind,” and the motto of Mass General, going back to its founding, “When in distress, every man becomes our neighbor.”

It’s a world today where neighbors exist all over, Gardner believes. “Assist one person and it can have a powerful effect,” he said.

Armentia added, “I hope the world will not forget what happened in the Philippines.”

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.

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