German Yolanda volunteers: From strangers to Friends
by FFE PH News Staff
The 30-member German volunteer mission Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) came to Palo, Leyte as strangers in a foreign land. Almost 1 ½ months and 4,500 patients later, the group is leaving with fond memories of the country and its people.
ASB, which also means ‘help a neighbor group,’ is composed of doctors, nurses and paramedics who came to lend aid to the post-Yolanda health mission on 22 November. They supported the humanitarian efforts of the Belgian First Aid and Support Team (B-FAST) and the German-based International Search and Rescue (Isar) that helped in the search for the missing and the dead.
Dr Nina Stucke said ‘The friendliness and the thankfulness of the people of Palo and their incredible will to stand up again is what I will take home with me.’ Her co-team leader Martin Kunstmann meanwhile said his team’s work was done after seeing improvements in the survivors.
ASB erected 19 tents that served as a beacon of hope for the 67,000 survivors in the area. The team treated some 200 to 300 patients a day for wounds, trauma, colds and waterborne illnesses. To help in their work, they hired some residents to serve as interpreters, drivers and cooks.
Six-year-old Wendelmae Flores recovered from a week-old diarrhea after being rehydrated by ASB nurses. His 10-year-old brother Welbert thanked the team in Waray-Waray. Their mother, Wilma, died in the storm in Barangay San Joaquin.
Filipino-German teen Kim Emily Jurgen Pedrosa meanwhile saw her temporary work with ASB as a chance to reconnect with her German roots: ‘I came to appreciate better the two worlds where I came from.’ Kim was born in Lorrach, Germany in 1997. She and her mother Imelda were hired as English-German translators as some of the members did not know how to speak English well.
Tokens and gifts were exchanged between residents and the team members during the team’s farewell party on 3 January. Stucke said ‘Everybody was crying. Nobody had a dry eye inside the tent.’
Most of ASB’s patients love to talk about paramedic Joern Berneburg, a licensed pilot, because he is known as the team clown. First-time volunteer Berneburg often delighted traumatised children with funny antics, one of which was wearing a bulbous red nose in the examination room.
He said ‘They know me as Dr Red Nose (Berneburg’s clown character), but I really would like to stay and be a pilot for Cebu Pacific.’
ASB turned over almost all 1.7 tonnes of equipment they brought to the local health unit and local government, including generators, refrigerators, computers, emergency kits and tents. Councilor Ciriaco Agner Jr, head of the municipal council’s health committee, said ‘This is indeed a generous gift for us.’
The parting is bittersweet, but for some, like Kunstmann, it means reuniting with his family after missing Christmas with them. He said ‘It would be nice to be home again.’