“Binigyan tayo ng pagkakataong makatulong sa iba, kaya nararapat lang na gawin na natin ito nang buong puso at sa abot nang ating makakaya (We were given the opportunity to help others so we must do it wholeheartedly and with all our best),” said Nelly T. Lusterio, who makes this her personal mantra to continue doing her best in helping the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro in improving their quality of life through complying to the health conditionalities of the program.
Aside from serving as a Midwife III in Bansud Health Station, Nelly was assigned as the Pantawid focal on health in the municipality since the start of the program in 2009. Throughout her years in service, she assures that the beneficiaries of the program will receive the right health services and attain knowledge on the significance of availing these services especially the Indigenous People (IP) beneficiaries who constitute a great portion of the families she monitors.
“Ako man ay hindi rin nakakaangat sa buhay, isang karangalan para sa akin ang mabigyan ng tulong sa kahit maliit na paraan sa mga pamilyang ito (I may not also be affluent in life, but it is an honor to be of help to these families even in a simple way),” she said.
Nelly is motivated to assist the beneficiaries of the program through exerting efforts in ensuring that the they comply to its conditionalities since she understands how important it is for these poor families to receive not only the complete financial assistance from the program but also to obtain the health services that they need to improve the health condition of their family. She provides services to the Pantawid beneficiaries not only because it is her duty as a health practitioner but also because she understands that provision of health care to the poor families is important in providing better lives for them, coming from a low class of the society, herself.
Nelly was born and raised in Sinait, Ilocos Sur. Her father was a farmer while her mother was a housewife who takes care of her and her younger brother.
“Mahirap din ang aming buhay noon bilang umaasa lamang kami sa pagsasaka ng aking ama. Tuwing anihan lamang nakakaipon ang aming mga magulag para sa aming pang-araw-araw at sa aming pag-aaral (Our life was also difficult before since we only rely on our father through farming. It is only during harvest seasons that our parents can save money for our daily needs and for our education),” Nelly narrated.
Though they are only a small family, it had been difficult for her parents to finance their education. But through her dedication and her parent’s hard work, she was able to graduate at St. Rita School of Nursing and Midwifery in Metro Manila with a course in Midwifery. She was also fortunate to study Bachelor of Science in Community Health at the Trinity College of Quezon City through the help of the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP).
After graduating, she met Erwin Lusterio and got married to him in 1984. Since then, they lived in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro, together with their three daughters.
To practice what she had studied Nelly applied for work in Bansud Health Station, where she has developed a strong dedication in providing health services to those in need.
“Makikitaan si Tita Nelly ng kaniyang dedikasyon sa trabaho sa attitude pa lamang nya sa pagtanggap ng tungkulin at sa pagbigay ng serbisyo sa nangangailangan (Tita Nelly’s dedication towards her work can be seen through her attitude in accepting her responsibilities and in providing services to those in need),” said Dr. Mario O. Sales, their Municipal Health Officer. According to him, Nelly continuously provide her service even after office hours whenever she will be visited or consulted at home.
“Nagsimula ako na mayroong maliit lamang na sweldo pero pinagpatuloy ko iyon dahil masaya ako sa aking ginagawa (I started with only a small compensation for my work, but I continued working because I am happy with what I do),” she said. They would visit remote sitios to offer health services especially that there are many IP communities in the area. They would walk 5 kilometers from one sitio to another to visit the IPs just to ensure their availment of health services.
“Doon din siguro nagmula ang motibasyon ko para tulungan sila dahil nakikita ko mula sa mga pagbisita namin sa kanilang komunidad kung gaano kahirap ang buhay doon at kung anong serbisyo ang maari naming maibigay sa kanila (Maybe that’s where my motivation in helping them started since I was able to see their situation during our community visits which determines what services we can give to them),” Nelly said.
Although her job requires her to spend more time and effort, Nelly’s family has been supportive to what she does and is proud of her for her commitment towards it. They understand the responsibilities of their mother since there are people going to their house to consult to her. If she’s not at home and her patients go there to seek for health assistance, her children will immediately call her so she can provide immediate response.
Nelly is seen to be responsible, hard-working, and empathic towards the people she serves. Because of these traits, she was assigned as the Pantawid focal for health in 2009 when the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program started through the recommendation of Dr. Sales. According to him, because of her character, Nelly has already established her relationship with their patients. “Isa sa mga best characteristics nya ay may malasakit sya sa aming pasyente. Madali syang pakisamahan at approachable sa katutubo man or sa Tagalog (One of her best characteristics is she has concern to our patients. She is also easy to get along with and approachable to IPs or the Tagalos),” he said. Because of this, he knows that Nelly will be the best candidate for being a coordinator of the program.
As Pantawid focal on health, she ensures that the beneficiaries comply on the health conditionalities of the program such as in getting regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines of children 0-5 years of age, getting deworming pills twice a year of children aged 6-14 years old, getting pre-natal care and post-natal care of pregnant women, and delivering of pregnant women by a skilled birth attendant.
“Simula nang ako ay naging Pantawid Focal Person, mas naging matibay ang aking kagustuhan na matulungan ang aking mga kababayan na higit na nangangailang ng tulong pangkalusugan (Since I have become a Pantawid Focal Person, the urge in me to help others in need of health assistance strengthened),” she said.
More than her duty in monitoring the Compliance Verification forms of the beneficiaries, she conducts home visitation to beneficiaries who are non-compliant to follow-up on the reason of non-compliance and to explain to them the importance of the program and its advocacies on helping them through investing on health and nutrition of their families.
One case she handled on non-compliance was a pregnant Mangyan couple who did not avail pre-natal services and did not want to deliver her baby in the health center due to their beliefs. She tried to persuade the couple to go to the center because the condition of the woman is sensitive and critical which may be life threatening to both herself and the baby if she was to give birth at home. After continuously trying, she was able to convince them. “Lubos ang pasasalamat sa akin ng lalaki noon dahil kung hindi ko daw sila sinabihan ay baka kung ano ang masamang nangyari sa kanyang asawa (The husband was extremely grateful because if I did not urge them, an unfortunate event might happen to her wife),” narrated Nelly. Since then, the couple convinced other IP couples to deliver their babies in the health center to ensure their safety.
“Sumasama ako sa mga FDS upang maibahagi ang kahalagahan ng kalusugan at upang magbigay na rin ng updates sa mga benepisyaryong minomonitor ko lalo sa sa mga IP area (I join FDS to discuss the importance of health and to provide updates on the beneficiaries that I monitor especially in the IP areas),” she said. Nelly initiated efforts in visiting IP communities together with the barangay health workers (BHW) to educate them on family planning and ensuring the health of their children by availing check-ups especially for pregnant women. She encourages them to give birth at the health center to ensure safe delivery of their babies.
As a midwife, she collaborates with BHWs to identify who are pregnant to encourage beneficiaries to give birth in the health facilities to avoid pregnant women giving birth at home to lessen maternal and infant death, as well as morbidity cases.
“Ang maging isang Pantawid focal sa kalusugan ay napakalaking responsibilidad. Sa kabila ng dami ng aking trabaho, sinisiguro ko na nagagampanan ko at natutugunan ang aking responsibilidad sa mga batang Pantawid at mga miyembro nito (Being a Pantawid focal on health is a great responsibility. Despite my workload, I ensure that I fulfill and meet my responsibilities towards the Pantawid children beneficiaries and its members),” Nelly said.
“Kumpara sa ibang mga focals na nagsheshade lang [ng CV forms], makikitaan si Tita Nelly ng concern sa mga benepisyaryo. Kung hindi niya masolusyunan ang non-compliance ng isang benepisyaryo, sisiguraduhin niyang ilapit muna sa amin ito bago niya gawing non-compliant sa form (Compared to other focals who only shade [CV forms], Tita Nelly has sincere concern for the beneficiaries. If she cannot solve the non-compliance of beneficiaries, she will make sure to bring the issue to us before listing them as non-compliant),” said Municipal Link Mary Joy M. Singsing in Bansud. According to Joy, Nelly has positive attitude towards the beneficiaries of the program which has helped her to easily encourage them to comply with the conditionalities on health even with the IPs, who find it difficult to visit health center due to their distance and due to their cultural beliefs. Because of this, beneficiaries in the areas she monitors have achieved a 100% compliance rate on health for 2 years.
“Hangga’t andito ako, patuloy kong gagampanan ang aking responsibilidad bilang Pantawid focal para sa mga benepisyaryo ng Pantawid (As long as I am still here, I will continue perform my responsibilities as a Pantawid focal for the beneficiaries of the program)”, Nelly said.
“Masaya akong nagiging parte ako ng pagbabago sa kanilang buhay kahit sa maliit lamang na bagay na ibinibigay ko (I am happy to be part of the changes in their lives even with the simple things I give them),” she added.
According to her, she finds joy in the assistance she gives towards the beneficiaries of the program and she will never get tired of promoting the importance of health as part of the improvement of their lives. ###
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