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  • Judy Santiago

#IdeasPositiveRun5: Kissing Goiter Goodbye

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

”Kung hindi nagpunta ang mga estudyante dito, hindi namin malalaman na meron kaming goiter (If the students did not come here, we will never know that there are goiter cases here in our community),” says Rachel Mateo, tribal secretary of Sitio Nagpana, Barotac Viejo in Iloilo.

”Kung hindi nagpunta ang mga estudyante dito, hindi namin malalaman na meron kaming goiter (If the students did not come here, we will never know that there are goiter cases here in our community).”

These were the words of Rachel Mateo, tribal secretary and barangay health worker (BHW) of Sitio Nagpana, Barotac Viejo in Iloilo. Sitio Nagpana is an isolated Ati community, three hours away from Iloilo City proper, yet this is the community that “Team Para Sa Bayan” chose to make a difference in.

Why? Nanay Rachel reported that throughout her 33 years living in Nagpana, they only dealt with health issues like stomachache and fever, just like in other sitios. However, what they didn’t know was that they had been living with iodine deficiency all their lives. Some of the residents have died due to what the team calls a “silent emergency,” thinking it was a mere “bukol” (lump) on their neck.

Team Para sa Bayan, composed of Cheyene Carillo, Thea Dino, Beth Fantonalgo, Alyssa Lanceta, and Von Penetrante, lived up to their team name. For five weeks, they studied the community, ate with the community, and lived with the community. They became so close to them, close enough to gain a friend in Roger, an aspin that follows them wherever they go. The team was there for one mission: to stop the disease that has been threatening the Ati tribe.

To start, the team conducted a urinary iodine test among the 160 residents, with 11 children and adults detected as iodine deficient and prone to goiter. That’s 7 percent of Sitio Nagpana. The team’s positive idea is to empower the community by educating them on how to prevent iodine deficiency. They also equipped them with strategies to increase their iodine intake while augmenting their income.

At first, the team says it was challenging to get the buy-in of the community due to their past experiences with other organizations. “They are very sensitive and mahiyain, but due to our frequent visits, natuto sila mag-open up. Sinama namin yung core group nila, kasi sila yung susi sa sustainability nung project (They were very sensitive and shy at first, but due to our frequent visits, they learned how to open up. We included their core group in our discussions because they play an important role in the project’s sustainability).”

Their biggest contribution to the community is the construction of Balay Pangkalusugan, the community health center. Nanay Rachel shares, “Nag-bayanihan kami. Ang mga tatay ang nagtayo, ang mga nanay ang nagluto ng kanilang pagkain (We practiced bayanihan. The fathers built the structure, while the mothers prepared their food).” There, the residents were prompted through a calendar to cook healthy and iodine-rich food. It also serves as their livelihood center, where they continue to create their hand-woven purses and their newest product: iodine soaps. These soaps are a source of iodine through skin absorption, and can also be sold to other barangays for added income.

The team also reinforced the implementation of Asin Law also known as R.A. 8173, an act promoting salt iodization nationwide. They also partnered with the Department of Agriculture to teach them agripreneurship, for food security and added income.

Morita Emo, 58, was among the 11 diagnosed with goiter. She said the disease has made her cough and unable to walk properly. “Ayoko na magpaopera (I refuse to be operated on),” Morita says. But her bigger battle is to keep her daughter Lea from experiencing the same fate. Lea, 32, is also diagnosed with goiter. “Dahil sa kanila [Team Para sa Bayan], nakapag-seminar kami kung ano ang goiter. Natuto rin kami paano namin aalagaan ang mga bata (Because of Team Para sa Bayan, we learned how to prevent goiter. We also learned how to take care of our children).”

For all the team has done for Sitio Nagpana, they themselves are thankful for what they’ve learned in the process. Cheyene says,Happy ako dahil nakabulig ako. ‘Di ko naisip na kaya ko magbulig sa tao. Napaubra niyo [Ideas Positive] sa akin ang beyond sa aking ability (I’m happy that I was able to help them. I never thought I can help others. Ideas Positive has brought out what’s beyond my ability).”

The team believes that through their project, Sitio Nagpana will be a goiter-free community. Thea shares, “I’m happy that they realized that the project is for them, and they committed to continue what has been started.”

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.

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