Since 2002 680 students from the Auburn Adventist Academy have traveled to the Philippines on medical mission trips. Pastor Jay Coon shares the experience and impact of these trips have on both the students and the Filipino community they serve.
In 2001, a group of doctors with their families traveled to the far most northern village of Pagudpud in the Philippines. This Oceanside region is made up of mostly rice and fishing, with minor tourism happening in those days. The beaches are white sand and expansive. The people are clean, kind, and receptive to visiting foreigners. Health care is relatively non-existent, often expensive when one travels to a hospital an hour and a half and possibly refused care if they are unable to pay.
In that first year, the doctors and their families set up daily makeshift medical clinics at the municipalities basketball courts and saw patients throughout each day for three weeks. They determined they needed something more sustainable for this community of 75,000 people.
In 2002, with the help of supportive Filipino families, the group went back and purchased a small piece of land where a one-room clinic could be operational. The small clinic served for the next eleven years, seeing thousands of patients when a medical team from the USA would visit. In 2017 the clinic, named Pagudpud Adventist Wellness Center, finally received its certifications and permits to open a 24/7 urgent care clinic. Today this three-story clinic, which is still in the process of completion, houses a full CBC Lab center, Digital X-ray unit, Acute Care, Physical Therapy/Massage, Dental, Eye, and Pharmacy.
In His Service Amianan (IHSA), a US-based non-profit organization supports the Filipino-ran operation. IHSA formed in 2004 as a 501c3 to run medical mission trips for all ages. They directed funds to build the permanent medical clinic that is now such a blessing in this Filipino community. Pagudpud Adventist Wellness Center has a staff of twenty-six: two full-time doctors and two rotating in doctors, five nurses, two lab techs, an X-ray tech, a Pharmacist, two dentists, a physical/massage therapist, and the support staff that keeps the clinic clean, well fed, and financially on course. The clinic is now entirely self-sustaining, seeing over 1,100 patients a month, offering affordably priced medical care with kindness, and where patients don’t get denied care. IHSA makes up the financial difference by keeping the clinic up-to-date with the latest technology and equipment. The clinic has a powered generator that automatically turns on during power loss. When the Typhoon Man-yi came through the Northern Philippines in November, the clinic served as an evacuation location and assisted many throughout the community.
Pastor Jay Coon accompanied the first group of doctors to travel to the Philippines back in March of 2001. In August of 2001, he would relocate to Auburn Adventist Academy Church and School teaching senior Bible class to the students. One day, Pastor Jay mentioned to the class that he was going to return to the Philippines in March of 2002 with his Father-in-law, who at the time was an emergency board certified physician. Later that week, four students came to Pastor Jay Coon asking if they could join him for the medical mission trip during spring break. This is the start of students going to the Philippines on medical missions. As of today, Pastor Jay has taken over 680 students on medical mission trips. Though he’s only been there in one to three-week intervals, he has collectively spent over two years in Pagudpud leading out the medical mission trips.
With Pastor Jay’s help, there are three medical mission trips organized per year. The spring break trip held each March is mainly for high school students, typically thirty to thirty-students at a time, from Auburn Adventist Academy. There are also summer two-week trips for college students throughout North America. Usually, the kids are interested in medical activities and join to serve and assist in the clinic. The third mission is an eight-month long trip. The trip begins in September through the end of April, is designed for college students who desire a more integrated clinical experience. During this school year, the mission has 12 college students on site.
The two-week March medical mission trip combines medical, construction, home visitations, and Vacation Bible School (VBS – not sure if this is what VBS stands for in this context) children’s programs. Young volunteers are assigned a different role each day, giving them a variety of tasks and abilities to connect with other volunteers and the locals who support these assignments. The students raise a total of $2,500 for their airfare, in-country travel, food, insurance, lodging, donated medication, and the free clinics that are done each day in the local villages.
Auburn Adventist Academy found that these trips to be life-changing for the student who participate each year. Usually, only grade 11th and 12th graders are allowed to go, and parents are thrilled with the growth in maturity, servanthood and academic focus the kids come back with. IHSA in connection with AAA makes these trips possible for the kids, and the kids work hard to find the financial sponsors to raise funds necessary to go.