Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Filipino Palestinian Cousins-- Faces in the Perspective

In the wake of the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the rising death toll especially on the Palestinian side, currently New York Times reported that, as of noon, 655 people had been killed since the operation’s onset, 4,220 wounded and 1,090 homes demolished, of which many are women, children, and elderly men--I'm moved to write about my three Filipino-Jordanian cousins, who are Palestinian. The current conflict is justified by Israel as a measure of "self-defense after days of restraint, warnings, and pleas—as rockets continued to land on its cities and later when militants sprang from tunnels to kill its citizens." In 2011, my cousins used these same tunnel to escape to Egypt and eventually be reunited with their Filipina mother, my father's cousin.
When I visited the Philippines, I met them in 2011 in Manila. Sherene is 18, she is studying to be a nurse. Sisi is 13, she became the Manila figure skating champion in her age bracket also in 2011. Lafi is 15 and has a strong interest in photography. We swam in the pool, we ate a lot, we visited different tourists sites in Manila and just had a wonderful short time spent together.
I also had an opportunity to hear about their home life in Palestine, the suffering and deprivation they faced on a daily basis because of the blockade that Israel has put on Gaza. The blockade is considered by UN officials as illegal in March 2014. The Palestinian demanded that the blockade be lifted, and since Israel refused to do so, peace talks were futile. Details of the conflict from the American Al Jezera network is causing me more anxiety.

My cousins friends are targeted, their family left behind in Palestine have evacuated, homes demolished, and their grandfather, who is paralyzed has nowhere to go. Hamas is purportedly using human shields. But what if these human shields are also people who wanted a better life, end to the blockade? Would they then be classified as Hamas, and valid targets? My cousins, who are currently living a wonderful life in Manila are mortified by what is going on.

Living in the USA, particularly in the Bible Belt South, there is a pro-Israeli sentiment because of religious traditions and affiliations. It's easy to go with the flow and stop asking questions.

In going to war, these questions should be asked: Are the reasons for the war morally compelling? This in philosophy is "the right to go to war" (jus ad bellum)
The second question to ask is: the "right conduct in war" (jus in bello)--This principle is meant to limit excessive and unnecessary death and destruction.

I've scoured the news to try to understand what is happening. I think for both philosophical questions, the Israeli current conduct is not justified. I don't think it's useful to look at this from a religious perspective. Both groups of people live there, and both equally have the right to exist, the right to pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

However, Washington seems committed to Israel, and with this commitment, there is no enforcement mechanism to hold Israel accountable. And accountability is important, CRUCIAL, in world peace.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Working for the Lee County Health Department

Working for the Lee County Health Department was an eye opener.
I'm not sure how other health departments are structured but this one primarily 1. keep food and physical environment safe by visiting restaurants, hotels, day cares, monitor lead and water pollution 2. prevent the occurrence and spread of disease by working with community partners 3. prepare for and respond to disaster and emergencies.

I worked in the #2 capacity--preventing the occurrence and spread of disease.
This began with a community health assessment (CHA), which occurs once every four years in Lee County. The assessment is 20 minutes long. So I would call different business and locations to see if we could conduct a CHA or set up a drop box with surveys. I conducted CHA at food banks, free clinics, employment security commission, chamber of commerce, pharmacies, libraries, post office, fairs and many more different places. At certain point, this job was repetitive in some aspects and yet it continued to be challenging.

Another aspect of #2 was to attend monthly meetings of taskforce composed of health organizations, school districts, farmers cooperative, etc. The meeting serves to discuss past actions, and future plans and main community problems. One such problem is the rate of obesity in Lee County, which I found to be a shocking >50%! One project that I worked on to address this issue of obesity is to organize a pilot exercise in the park program. I served as a coordinator, planner, diplomat, promoter to help bring the project to life.

Another job that I performed with #2 is to work as a student nurse in the health clinic. The health clinic serves a majority of people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The wait times occasionally was greater than 2 hours due to lack of interpreters. The clinic helps to screen pregnancy, STDS, help maintain healthy course of pregnancy, vaccinations, well-child visits, etc. I think the most interesting experience in the clinic was to meet someone who was recently diagnosed/treated with an STD and a day later encounter that same person trying to hook up with an obese woman. Ugh. I am bound by HIPAA and confidentiality. But I'm looking into finding out what measures we have against preventing/stopping this kind of reckless behavior?

Finally, I'm attending a Crisis Intervention Training for Law Enforcement Officers. This CIT helps police officers recognize psychiatric illness and crisis and help them form appropriate response. The ultimate goal is to bring the person to seek medical attention, rather than to incarcerate the said person during an acute psychiatric crisis.

These are but a few of the projects I've been involved with at the local government level this past summer. There are many ways to be involved, if any of the above sounds interesting to you!