For most kids my age, Christmas is a time for celebration. It’s about family bonding, sharing with the less fortunate and, most of all, remembering the birth of Jesus Christ.
This year, I spent Christmas at home. But I also spent time with my “extended family” at Camillus MedHaven Nursing Home, a private institution for the care of the elderly. MedHaven is operated by the Order of the Ministers of the Infirm, more popularly known as the Camillians. Followers of St. Camillus de Lellis, patron saint of the sick, health workers and hospitals, the Camillians are commemorating the saint’s 400th death anniversary in 2014.
Since May 2013, my family and I regularly visit MedHaven’s facility in Marikina Heights, Marikina City. We go there, not because we have relatives under their care, but simply to be part of a community that cares for senior citizens.
Almost every Sunday, we go to MedHaven at 10 in the morning or about 30 minutes before Holy Mass begins. I play the piano as the elderly wards are being wheeled into the small chapel.
As a beginner, I was shy at first. But MedHaven’s administrator, Rev. Fr. Eli Navarro, encouraged me to play until I gained confidence. He said the elderly audience were quietly listening and enjoying the music. Later, I was happy to know that members of the audience were actually listening, humming or quietly tapping their fingers along with my music.
Visits to MedHaven are something we look forward to at the end of each week. We always feel welcome. Some kids are proud of having one, two or four grandparents. My sister and I, on the other hand, are lucky to have a whole community of grandparents!
Due to our regular visits, we have become familiar guests to the more than 50 elderly patients under MedHaven’s care. In fact, most grandmothers are very fond of my three-year-old sister. They often hug and kiss her when we visit.
Established in 1992 by the Order of the Ministers of the Infirm, Camillus MedHaven is a nursing home that provides resident-oriented, long-term full-time care. According to its brochure, the center offers rehabilitative therapies and adult daycare services to seniors who need post-hospital or post-operative medical attention and whose families are not equipped to give the attention they require.
Formerly known as St. Camillus Home of Charity, the facility once offered free shelter and health care for abandoned persons with disabilities (PWD). But due to limited resources, it was transformed into a private home for the elderly to make it sustainable. Senior citizens now pay for the care they receive, but part of the proceeds goes to maintenance and charity.
Despite this change, MedHaven remains faithful to its original mission of caring for persons with disabilities. In fact, it still has a number of ward patients under its care. As often as we can, we donate basic needs like toiletries to these charity patients, namely Lolo Steve, Sandy, Ismael, Biboy, Lolo Angel, Jonald and Merly.
While providing a home-away-from-home community for the elderly, Camillus MedHaven is also involved in promoting the welfare of disabled children in Marikina City. Through its Community-Based Rehabilitation Programs, it helps in the effective physical and social rehabilitation of these children.
Genuine love and concern
As regular visitors to the facility, we are witness to the genuine concern that caregivers provide their respective wards. More importantly, the facility is clean and patients are well groomed. There are even programs and presentations on special occasions. This year, however, the traditional Christmas party was not held in view of the suffering brought by super typhoon Yolanda.
In the coming year, we hope to continue our regular visits to MedHaven. I’m also trying to learn more piano pieces so I can continue to entertain staff and senior patients at the facility.
This is our family’s small contribution to the elderly. This is our way of paying tribute to St. Camillus de Lellis who’s motto is “to serve the sick even at the risk of our lives.” More importantly, this is in solidarity with the staff of MedHaven who “care for people with hearts in their hands.”
(Jose Gabriel “Gabby” F. de Guzman, 11, belongs to the Grade 6 honors class at La Salle Green Hills. He loves Math and Science, plays the piano and does origami as a hobby. Apart from teaching young children, he does volunteer work for Red Cross Youth. Like most kids his age, Gabby also
loves basketball, movies, video games and Internet surfing.)