(VIDEO BLOG) This is Definitely Not “Grey’s Anatomy”: Microfinance Medical Mission on Pitogo Island

11 March 2012 at 08:00 17 comments

By Jamie Greenthal | KF 17 | Philippines

Waiting with baited breath for the results.

While watching TV medical dramas over the years, I often fantasized about being a perfectly coiffed doctor who miraculously cures patients in under an hour (including commercial breaks) without breaking a sweat, and always remembers to flash a pearly white smile before the credits roll.  While it seemed glamorous on TV, I knew, from being a patient myself, that the TV doctor exists only in Hollywood.

Last weekend, on remote Pitogo Island in the middle of the Philippine Sea, at a medical and dental clinic organized by Kiva partner Community Economic Ventures, Inc. (CEVI), I finally saw what it is really like to be making immediate diagnoses and treating patients on the spot.  There was no time for days of testing or follow-up appointments; this was a one-episode deal.  For the doctors and nurses who volunteered, they were just doing their jobs, albeit far from their homes in Manila.  For me, it was an unforgettable and emotional experience.

To set the stage for the video that you are about to watch, here is an explanation of, and my reflections on, the “CEVI Medical and Clinic 2012”.

Over the course of two days, 42 doctors, dentists, and nurses from Manila provided free health care services to nearly 1,000 residents of Pitogo.  Sixty CEVI staff organized and volunteered during the event, performing work such as patient intake, prescription distribution, data entry, and event documentation (the latter two were my jobs).  How is this related to microfinance, you may ask?  CEVI views this event as an extension of its mission to support economically disadvantaged Filipinos who live in isolated and vulnerable communities.  Nearly 600 hundred of the patients are CEVI borrowers.  A healthy client has a better chance of building a successful microenterprise (and paying back a loan).

Over the course of the two-day event, I was constantly moved by the dedication of the medical staff and volunteers, who performed their jobs with delicate grace.  I was equally touched by the reactions of the patients, many of whom had never visited a doctor or dentist in their lives.  Witnessing a dentist explain to adults how to brush their teeth was both heart breaking and inspiring.

I couldn't resist; the children of Pitogo are so cute.

On the bangka back to the “mainland”, which is actually another island, Bohol, I felt emotionally nourished, but still had questions about the effectiveness of the clinic.  I wondered if the services that we provided are sustainable.  Will the woman who I saw have six teeth extracted be able to afford dentures?  Probably not.  Will the man who was prescribed 10 antacid pills need more after he runs out?  Probably.

Whether it is medical or financial services that are being delivered to these communities, an important goal is sustainability.  While expensive prescriptions and medical treatment may not be replicated easily, the wisdom that the medical staff and volunteers imparted on the residents of Pitogo should last well beyond the time when the medicine runs out.  Health education is a service that these folks can put into practice today and pass along to the community and future generations.  I think that falls into the category of sustainability, along with the loan, insurance, and savings products that CEVI provides to this community.

Knowing this makes me optimistic for the people of Pitogo, who undoubtedly deserve the best for themselves despite what we in the West would consider challenging health and financial situations.  Despite their situational limitations, I think that they are happier and more fulfilled than we realize, and my experience at the clinic only reinforced this belief.

Hope you enjoy the video:


This is "copra" (i.e., dried coconut), which will be sold by this woman from Pitogo and then turned into cooking oil or biodiesel, for example.

Jamie Greenthal is a Kiva Fellow working with Community Economic Ventures in Tagbilaran City, Philippines. 

Entry filed under: KF17 (Kiva Fellows 17th Class). Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Second Chances (Part 2) Update From The Field: a New Perspective from Mexico, Second Chances for Borrowers + a Microfinance Medical Mission


  • 1. Frank  |  22 March 2012 at 09:52

    Hey Jamie,
    We are learning more about you, maybe not a bad chap after all.
    Careful on those fast scooters!

  • 2. Hyacinth REvilles  |  20 March 2012 at 03:27

    Great Job Jamie. I was teary eyed watching the testimony of the client. All efforts were paid off. Kudos to the Medical Mission Team led by Jane and Magie.

  • 3. Kristian Piala (@xianworld)  |  15 March 2012 at 17:55

    Its been inspiring to read your blogs especially about community outreach. Moreover, I am personally inspired about your works and your dedication in serving the community and giving them a hand when they need it. Also, your blog inspires me to write my own and share to the world about things that I know and everything that I am willing to know. I do hope that you will continue to serve and ignite the light in you that could be radiated to the lives of the many. Great job , man and keep it up.

    • 4. jlgreenthal  |  15 March 2012 at 18:25

      Xian — thank you for your kind words. I am so pleased that you are finding this blog and the work of Kiva to be worthwhile, not only to you and your “batch”, but also to your new employer, CEVI. I think you have chosen an admirable career path, and for that you will be rewarded in many ways. All the best and thanks for reading!

  • 5. alexkiva  |  12 March 2012 at 19:28

    Great post Jamie, although unfortunately my internet is acting up so I haven’t seen the video yet. This whole situation reminds me of “Mountains Beyond Mountains”, the Paul Farmer biography, in everything from the type of people reached and the sustainability issues to the emotions involved. If you haven’t read it yet you should pick it up. Glad to see you’re doing good work and being inspired!

    • 6. Jamie  |  13 March 2012 at 02:37

      Hey Alex — great to hear from you. Thanks for the tip on the book; I will definitely check it out. Hope you’re doing well too. Your post on Medellin really compels me to get there someday. I’ll have to fast for a few days beforehand though. Thx for the warning!

  • […] This is Definitely Not “Grey’s Anatomy”: Microfinance Medical Mission on Pitogo Is… Jamie Greenthal | KF 17 | Philippines One of Kiva’s partner institutions, CEVI, provides a unique product in the form of a free medical clinic. Watch Jamie’s video of their work that is meeting not only the financial needs but social needs of clients and others in the community they serve. […]

  • 8. Kieran Ball  |  11 March 2012 at 14:15

    Great video, it gives a real feel of what it’s like to be there. I’m glad CEVI are doing this. I hope they were able to help many people.

    • 9. Jamie  |  11 March 2012 at 16:42

      Hey Kieran — I’m glad you liked the video. It was inspiring to see so many residents come out and take advantage of the free medical and dental services. I was amazed that CEVI was able to serve nearly 1,000 people over the two days. It was truly a herculean effort! Thanks for reading.

  • 10. Nessa E. French  |  11 March 2012 at 12:50

    Great post Jamie! It is such a great reminder of the scope of services being offered by Kiva’s partners. It makes me wonder who would be meeting these needs without them. Awesome video, you may have to become our videographer in resident!

    • 11. Jamie  |  11 March 2012 at 16:38

      Hah! I don’t know about resident videographer, but playing around with iMovie was fun. I thought the same thing about meeting needs. While it was clearly necessary for CEVI to perform this clinic in Pitogo due to its lack of health care services, it is frustrating to see that this need exists in the first place. Just because this community is more remote than Manila, for example, geography shouldn’t disqualify it from receiving consistent access to decent health care. There are definitely a lot of layers to this issue, but it was inspiring to see CEVI tackle the problem head on. Thanks for reading and hope you’re having a great time.

  • 12. sidetrips  |  11 March 2012 at 10:17

    Since providing medical treatment is much more costly than prevention programs, the clinic would be hard to sustain. But the fact that this MFI demonstrated it may be enough to shame better-funded organizations into doing so on a continuous basis. Anyway, great video, touching, and a superb addition to Kiva’s media assets.

    • 13. Jamie  |  11 March 2012 at 16:31

      Thanks for your comment. Your shame comment is interesting, and in fact, I thought about that aspect of this effort more in terms of compelling the local government to provide better and more comprehensive health care services to the Pitogo community. If a private organization like CEVI can come in and serve nearly 1,000 people, then think about what the local gov’t could do given its permanent presence. Thanks for reading.

  • 14. Kim Strathearn  |  11 March 2012 at 08:39

    Great video blog Jamie!

    • 15. Jamie  |  11 March 2012 at 16:25

      Thanks Kim! Still learning iMovie, which is a really cool program. There’s so much that can be done with it. Take care!

  • 16. gringacarioca  |  11 March 2012 at 08:09

    Fantastic post, as usual! I am super interested in the role of non-financial services offered by MFIs. I wonder if the perhaps the dual provision of healthcare services and health insurance combats some of the moral hazard issues that arise when MFIs offer solely insurance. Maybe this helps CEV more closely monitor the costs of their insurance program and ensure that clients are using the service appropriately? Do you know if their is a co-pay to use the clinic or what the premium is like? I would love to hear more about your visit!

    • 17. Jamie  |  11 March 2012 at 16:24

      Hi! This was an entirely free clinic that was offered to both CEVI clients and non-clients (though clients did get priority). While this was a one-off event for Pitogo Island, CEVI plans to replicate this event on an annual basis going forward. Thanks for reading!

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