Bringing Barefoot Doctors to the frontlines of community health care


Many indigenous people who live far away from cities are living in such deep poverty that they are left to fend for themselves in times of illness.

To reach these groups and make healthcare accessible to them, the Barefoot Doctors Program was introduced in Mindanao by the Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission Inc. (FOLPMI), a non-governmental organization committed to uplifting underprivileged individuals, families, and communities towards sustainable human development. The program trains people from the indigenous communities on basic health care and first aid, enabling them to bring health services to the people who need it.

From its inception, the Barefoot Doctors Program has successfully helped sick indigenous people and continues to do so with the support of TELUS International Philippines (TIP) Community Board, which provides funding to help train individuals to become ‘Barefoot Doctors’.

The TIP Community Board is the corporate social responsibility foundation of one of the country’s leading contact centers, TELUS International Philippines. Through the board, the company fulfills its ‘we give where we live’ philosophy by regularly supporting charities that are centered on youth programs focused on health and wellness, sports and education, and arts and culture. The board distributes up to CAD$100,000 to local charities annually.

The eighth batch of Barefoot Doctors recently graduated from a 14-day program where representatives from indigenous communities in Subic, Zambales received basic health care and livelihood education. The workshop is among the series of short courses offered under the Indigenous Peoples Community Health Workers Training program that aims to educate more indigenous communities on primary health practices and reduce ailments and deaths.

This year’s training was sponsored by the TIP Community Board in cooperation with the Commission on Indigenous people and Department of Health to properly implement the training in a very culture-sensitive group.

During the graduation ceremony, 29 individuals, representing different indigenous groups across the Philippines, were certified as Barefoot Doctors. This means that they would now be able to render first-aid and bring much-needed health services to their sick neighbors and community members. Their task includes services to prevent or treat serious health conditions such as tuberculosis, pulmonary disease, dengue and malaria.

“The TELUS International Philippines Community Board supports programs that address the severe lack of access to healthcare for most tribes and groups in the Philippines. Through programs that train Barefoot Doctors, we can contribute to ensuring the welfare of the indigenous community,” said Warren Tait, TIP’s VP for Marketing and Culture.

Dr. Jason Abello, FOLPMI’s primary coordinator for this year’s program, noted the key role that volunteers play in bringing health services to the marginalized sectors. He likewise underscored how health care requires diverse solutions. “Once you teach people about health, you automatically deal with livelihood and nutrition. How would you introduce to them the importance of good nutrition when they don’t have anything to eat? This is why you need to build their livelihood program and community as well.”

Training volunteers to bring the most basic services to people is definitely a good start in addressing people’s health concerns, and the TIP Community Board is committed to support this endeavor.

To apply for TELUS International Philippines Community Board funding, please visit www.telus.com/community or visit www.telusinternational.com.ph.

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