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Health Assistance and Network Development-Philippines (HAND-Philippines) is a non-profit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of communities recovering from natural disasters in the Philippines. We are a collaborative network of medical and non-medical volunteers that grew out of a grass-roots relief effort in 2013, eventually attaining 501(c)3 non-profit status in 2015. 


Over the years, we have added programs and partnerships to learn how to be more effective and far-reaching.  Today, we are an expanding force of Filipino-American doctors, nurses, and professionals in Maine and California banding together with local clinics, government leaders, and civic organizations in the Philippines. These on-the-ground collaborations and the low overhead of a volunteer-run effort leverage funding for the most significant impact.


Our primary focus is serving the most disadvantaged communities facing challenges after calamities where sufficient funding and technical support to effectively provide sustainable programs in healthcare, early childhood education, and under-five nutrition are lacking. We provide post-calamity relief, humanitarian aid, repair/rehabilitation projects, and medical missions to address these issues. We endeavor not only to meet the immediate needs of the communities but also to connect them with a network of local partners and resources, empowering them with long-term sustainability.


We have witnessed our impact. The communities we served have emerged from challenging circumstances in the decade since our genesis. Whenever HAND-Philippines revisits our communities, the appreciation we receive adds a more profound significance to our work. It motivates us to discover innovative ways to work together with individuals and organizations to improve healthcare, self-reliance, and hope in populations greatly impacted by natural disasters, all while staying resilient.


Our beginnings are in rallying support and hope after tragedy. In the fall of 2013, the Philippines was struck by two consecutive natural disasters barely a month apart: a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake and a devastating category-five hurricane known as Super Typhoon Haiyan. These calamities claimed thousands of lives and left tens of thousands more homeless and without support. 


In response, local Filipino doctors and nurses formed grassroots medical humanitarian teams. Inspired by the spirit of Bayanihan, an ancient Filipino tradition of community help and cooperation, they provided free medical assistance and distributed essential supplies, moving from village to village. Their selfless efforts were sustained by local financial support and a critical undertaking led by the Filipino diaspora in the US.


As part of a significant US-based response, a group of Filipino doctors in Maine and California began collecting donations from friends and colleagues, sparking a movement of philanthropy that sustained on-the-ground relief efforts for months. They touched thousands of lives, especially in hard-to-reach, underserved rural areas. 


The doctors and their allies in Maine and California eventually founded a nonprofit called HAND-Philippines, an organization dedicated to promoting recovery following natural calamities by significantly strengthening public health and medical services in affected areas, particularly impoverished rural communities that often received inadequate funding from the government.


In April 2014, our founders, alongside volunteer American nurses, traveled to the Philippines to work with these local medical humanitarian teams in a series of medical missions. During this trip, our founders established key partnerships with local governments and civic organizations to form a cooperative network to implement projects with longer-lasting benefits, such as repairing and rehabilitating severely damaged community infrastructures and under-five feeding programs to address childhood malnutrition.


After attaining a 501(c)3 status in January 2015, our nascent organization focused on Tungod, a densely populated coastal community in northern Bohol known for its poverty. Their rural health station, community childcare center, and primary school building had been flooded and rendered unusable since the earthquake and super typhoon. HAND-Philippines contributed to the repair and rehabilitation of these buildings, a crucial step in restoring health and educational services to the community. Subsequently, we launched feeding programs to tackle malnutrition in preschoolers in Tungod and two other villages in the area. By 2018, HAND-Philippines initiated the Adopt-a-Rural Health Unit Program, which involved sending much-needed medications and supplies to rural health stations serving Tungod and other impoverished communities in northern Bohol. 


With the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary suspension of rebuilding and repair projects, we redirected our efforts towards combating food scarcity brought about by the strict lockdowns. We started community gardens and provided seed capital for subsistence farmers and fishermen to alleviate food shortages.


In December 2021, as the pandemic raged, another category-five hurricane, Super Typhoon Rai, struck the Philippines. We promptly activated our disaster response program, distributing vital resources such as water, food, and medications to the affected communities.


As the country reopened, we gradually resumed our role in the communities we serve. An expanding volunteer group brought expert health care and medical supplies to a number of underserved villages through our medical mission in May 2023. We also revitalized the Adopt-a-Rural Health Unit Program, supporting the RHUs of Tungod and surrounding barrios. Looking forward to 2024, we aim to resume our repair and rehabilitation projects, expand our community childcare program, and strengthen the capacity of our rural health stations to meet the demands of the communities we serve. 


The spirit of Bayanihan, which initially fostered the synergism between the US and Philippine endeavors in 2013, continues to be ingrained in HAND-Philippines even after a decade. What began as a collaboration between local humanitarian teams and a group of doctors from the US, joining forces to provide a robust response to a crisis, continues to thrive. Health Assistance and Network Development-Philippines has transformed into an organization that harnesses expanding networks to provide assistance through cooperation and a shared sense of compassion.

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