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MANILA, Philippines – On Wednesday, April 29, The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Foundation sent its 100,000th personal protective equipment (PPE) to a hospital in Cebu. In just 5 weeks, the foundation was able to raise P60 million to purchase PPE sets for COVID-19 frontliners in hospitals all over the country.
In this interview, Rappler’s Maria Ressa and the women at the center of the effort and ANCx’s Ces Drilon – all TOWNS awardees – talk about what, how, and why they initiated this effort. The idea to fundraise for PPE sets began with psychiatrist Dr June Lopez, who was moved to action when close friends in the medical profession became critically ill and eventually died of COVID-19.
She then reached out to Dr Medi Saniel, former head of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and current chair of the UP Medical Foundation, which has partnered with TOWNS for this initiative. They were eventually joined by other TOWNS women – public school teacher Sabrina Ongkiko, in charge of purchasing; and gallerist & art dealer Isa Lorenzo, in charge of logistics.
“We are a motley group of feisty – sometimes crazy – women of substance,” said Lopez. “Very busy women, but if we decide to do something, really, you cannot stop us.” The P60 million raised from both individual and corporate donations is being used to purchase and distribute PPE sets to hospitals all over the Philippines.
According to Lorenzo, 900 hospitals have registered on their database. Out of the 450 public hospitals that signed up, the foundation has donated equipment to 347.
A breakthrough in their distribution operations came when fellow TOWNS awardee Philippine Navy Commander Marissa Martinez tapped her institution to help ship the PPE wherever they are needed.“It takes much more than a village – it’s a village and everyone [we] know,” Lorenzo said of their work.
When asked why they continue to do what they do, despite setbacks and obstacles, the women agreed that it gives purpose and meaning to their lives at this very challenging historical moment.
“We have to find some meaning in what’s going on, and find something meaningful to do,” said Lopez. “So we are not counting the days, not worrying if we will catch the virus or not. We need to find a task-oriented attitude towards all this.”
Watch the rest of the interview here. – Rappler.com