In a world where collaboration holds immense power, the impact of partnerships is truly remarkable. It is in the collective effort of individuals and organizations that we witness transformative changes unfold, especially for those often overlooked by society.

Amidst the ever-evolving landscape, SM Foundation and UNIQLO Philippines have stood as steadfast partners, united in their mission to create positive social change. Since 2012, their partnership has yielded remarkable results, implementing collaborative projects that have broken barriers and uplifted socially vulnerable individuals.

Together, these two forces have pioneered initiatives in disaster relief, pandemic response, education, environment, and health. Their unwavering commitment to spreading social good has sparked unimaginable transformations, leaving a lasting impact on individuals and communities alike.

Health care worth having

While continuously taking steps working on the ground, the two organizations have seen the challenges of low-income families. With little to no resources, they often barely have enough to spend on things that are vital to living a healthy lifestyle, such as nutritious food, health care, and health literacy.

In times of health emergencies or sickness, vulnerable individuals turn to the services of local barangay health centers, rural health units, or public hospitals. However, these public health facilities frequently struggle with insufficient resources such as outdated infrastructures and inadequate equipment . 

Residents now get safer and more convenient checkups inside the RHU II-Mahabang Parang.

To help address these issues, three health centers in Bicol, three in Rizal, four in Bulacan, and two in Cagayan Valley were transformed by SM Foundation and UNIQLO Philippines from late 2022 to early 2023 alone. Alongside the physical upgrade of the centers is the rise of the renewed optimism and hope of their respective health workers and patients. One of them is midwife Rebecca Galves from the Baliwag Rural Health Unit 3.

A room that what once cramped, the new maternity room that was upgraded by SMFI and UNIQLO is laid out to ensure comfort and efficiency.

Rebecca vividly recalled the previous state of their health center: “Dahil masikip dito sa loob, hindi namin kayang i-accommodate lahat ng pasyente dahil kailangan pa rin ng social distancing. Dati, ang mga pasyente namin ay kadalasang naghihintay sa initan o nauulanan sa labas.”

“Sa isang kwarto, tatlong kama ang nakalagay kasama na ang marami pang ibang kagamitan at documents na hindi na magkasya sa mga cabinets. At dahil masikip, minsan, ang waste products ay nasa ilalim na ng kama. Hindi namin maibigay ang komportableng kapaligiran at ang serbisyong gusto sana naming maihatid,” she said.

Today, they put these behind their backs. As they unload the weight brought by the outdated facility, they became more comfortable and fueled to do more for the people they serve.

“Ngayong narenovate na ang center, nakakatiyak kami na gaganda pa lalo ang kalidad ng serbisyo naming mga health workers. Unang una, komportable na ang lugar kung saan maghihintay ang mga pasyente. Bukod pa dito, mai-hihiwalay namin ang mga pasyente base sa kalagayan at pangangailan nila. Higit pa rito, pag bumisita sila, mararamdaman nilang makabago ang aming pasilidad dahil malinis at maaliwalas na dito ngayon,” she shared.

A fellow Bulaceño of Rebecca, Hazel Esquilona, is one of the first patients served by the newly renovated RHU I in Baliwag. While it was her first time in the new center, her family has long relied on its healthcare services. 

As a single mother of three, she was forced to bring one of her daughters to the RHU as she had no money to pay for hospital fees and medicine.

“Nagkasakit ang anak ko at suspected po noon na may dengue o UTI siya. Wala po akong pera pero dahil dito sa health center, nagawa kong ipasuri ang ihi at dugo niya,” Hazel recalled how the center saved her child’s life. “At kahit wala po kaming pera, agarang nabigyan ng tamang gamot ang anak ko. Nabigyan din po kami ng libreng antibiotic at paracetamol.”

Barely a year after, her other child needed an anti-rabies vaccine. Upon arriving, she was surprised to see the upgrades to their community health facility. 

As a single mother of three, Esquilona (third from right) relies on the services of their rural health unit.

“Bukod sa libre po ang serbisyo, mas maaliwalas na po sa loob. Talagang mas comportable na po kami dahil sa mga bagong pasilidad gaya ng mas maayos na upuan, aircon–parang nasa mall,” she said, adding that she is now more confident to go to the RHU for their family’s medical health needs. 

Much like Hazel is a mother from Cauayan City, Rosal Anne Anlueco, who is expecting her second child. During her first pregnancy, she had all her prenatal checkups at the Brgy. District 2 Health Center, saying she can barely afford the fees in clinics and hospitals.

“Dito na lang po magpatingin noon kahit po hindi ganoon ka komportable dahil masikip at kahit minsan, parang hirap huminga at pawis na pawis ka dahil sa init,” she recalled her experience at the center during her first pregnancy. 

Rosal Anne receives a free prenatal checkup inside the newly renovated Brgy. District 1 Health Center

Amidst this, she opted to go back to the center for her second pregnancy as she recently quit her job as a saleslady due to a difficult pregnancy.

“Sa vitamins at ibang tests pa lang po, ubos na ang pera–paano pa ang ibang pangangailangan namin sa bahay. Buti na lang po at malaki ang pinagbago ng center. Dito po, lahat ng gamit ay bago, maaliwalas, at malamig pa. Bukod po sa kalidad ang serbisyo, hindi ko na po ngayon nararanasan ang bigat sa paghinga tuwing checkup. Mas kampante na po ako” she explained why she was thankful to have a safe pregnancy through the initiative of UNIQLO Philippines and SM Foundation.  

The stories of Rebecca, Hazel, and Rosal exemplify the transformative outcomes of the partnerships. The renovated health centers, equipped with upgraded facilities and enhanced services, have created an environment of comfort, efficiency, and hope. Through the collaborative efforts of SM Foundation and Uniqlo, vulnerable families have gained access to quality healthcare and a revitalized sense of optimism, that can shape a healthier future for all.

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