(Part 1 of 2). Most Sitio Parola residents depend on fishing for their livelihood – an unstable source of income that leaves the community economically disadvantaged compared to the rest of Wawa. The residents also face related issues of malnutrition, disease and pollution.
The coastal community of Sitio Parola (Filipino for “lighthouse”) lies close to Wawa Port in Batangas, where its namesake, a lighthouse, stands. It is part of Barangay Wawa in the Municipality of Nasugbu, where hardworking people persevere daily, facing various challenges.
Most Sitio Parola residents depend on fishing for their livelihood – an unstable source of income that leaves the community economically disadvantaged compared to the rest of Wawa. The residents also face related issues of malnutrition, disease and pollution.
Team Catalysts: agents for change
Since February, undergraduate students of Emilio Aguinaldo College (Dasmariñas, Cavite campus) have been helping Sitio Parola residents address some of their health concerns. Leading the efforts is Team Catalysts, one of fourteen student groups nationwide who have joined Unilab Foundation’s Ideas Positive.
Team Catalysts consists of team leader Juan Carlo “Jolo” Rivera, John Michael “JM” Ruiz and Jerick Angel Vivar, from the School of Medical Technology; Lady Dy, from the School of Communication; and Christian Gerald Herrera, from the School of Accountancy. They are supervised by Dr. Supachai Basit, Dean of Medical Technology, and assisted by fellow student volunteers.
Series of health and hygiene issues
Sitio Parola’s main health problem is iron deficiency anemia, says Jolo. Anemia is characterized by low amounts of red blood cells, leading to less capacity for oxygen, manifesting as dizziness, weakness and other symptoms. The most common cause is iron deficiency, which can be alleviated by adding iron-rich foods like kangkong and other green leafy vegetables to one’s diet. But it is difficult to grow vegetables in a coastal community like Sitio Parola. Many families also skip buying vegetables due to limited budgets, Dr. Basit adds.
Sitio Parola is cluttered with trash, too – some from the residents, but mostly brought in by currents from nearby resorts, a daily deluge that discourages them from cleaning up. There is also a proliferation of poor hygiene habits, such as open defecation by the children.
These practices have contributed to the spread of hookworms, roundworms and other parasitic organisms targeting humans, which in turn contributes to the problem of anemia. The parasites enter the body from the ground or sand through bare feet. Hookworms feed on blood, while other parasitic worms steal nutrients. “A single hookworm is capable of sucking .05 ml of blood per day,” says Dr. Basit.
To address these issues, Team Catalysts instituted Project AKBAYAN (Aksyon Bayanihan Kontra Anemia). The comprehensive program includes coastal cleanups, distribution of nutritional supplements and medicine, an educational campaign about proper hygiene and nutrition, and the promotion of supplementary livelihood methods. The team members usually visit the community every week to work with the people and monitor progress.
Know more about Team Catalyst's positive idea, and how it has started to transform Sitio Parola, in the second part of this two-part story.
Paolo Tanchuling is a freelance writer, and ULF's very first #healthierPH Correspondent. An Internet-savvy, book loving, history buff, Paolo graduated from University of the Philippines Diliman, with a double degree majoring in Journalism and History. This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun5 series, which documents the transformation of 14 communities through innovative ideas of 14 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time! Visit the Ideas Positive official Facebook page.