NAFCON: Student-Activist Memories
Reflecting on my journey as a student organizer, being a volunteer for the relief and medical mission conducted by National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) continues to be one of my most transformative experiences. From late July to early August, health professionals, documentation folks, and concerned members of the community in the US all gathered in the Philippines to provide much-needed relief and health services to marginalized communities. Along with these services, the program involved integrating the participants into the communities to learn about their conditions and needs. The program provided many opportunities for participants to share their lessons and experiences back in the US to encourage participation and support for future missions. Specifically for my role, I was involved in the documentation team as I assisted with photography, video, and interviews with the community. Through this team role, I was able to listen to the community about their daily experiences living and working in Smokey Mountain and Baseco (which were both the medical mission sites). Connecting with all the participants and community members, I was given the opportunity to learn about their personal struggles and strengths. Also, the community shared their perspectives on how institutions fail to serve them and what work needs to be done.
Community Activism and Its Lasting Impact
Being involved in NAFCON’s medical mission has shaped my work by encouraging me to continue exploring the ways I genuinely support and uplift my community, even abroad. One of my favorite experiences from the program was on the first day when we got to visit and immerse ourselves in the communities of Smokey Mountain and Baseco. On that same day, we also had political, health, and area situationers that highlighted the historical and current situation of the Philippines - and more specifically of the communities we were going to serve. This crucial aspect of the program allowed me to further understand why and how these marginalized communities are ignored and oppressed by the government and other institutions such as the health system. Learning more about the political situation of the Philippines really helped me better understand the root causes of the injustices I’ve seen on the ground that the communities we served and worked with experienced during the Medical Mission. This agitated me to continue to fight for collective and genuine justice, and liberation for Filipinx people and was overall a foundational and formative experience for me as a community organizer.
NAFCON: A Part of A Larger Filipinx Movement
I was looking at my journal that I brought to the medical mission and on one of the pages, I wrote a reflection on my first day that contemplated “how are these situations (political, health, and area) specifically in the Philippines interrelated and connected to the experiences of oppression and injustice that the Filipinx community face here in the US and throughout the diaspora? Being a part of the medical mission made me realize the systems that don’t serve us and that prioritize profit over people impact the Filipinx community both in the Motherland and abroad. Expanding on this, a big question I asked myself was how am I going to continue to serve my community? The whole experience inspired me to seek out spaces that organize to dismantle the systems that deny basic human rights to families back home and also aim to create systems of collective care & genuine justice for the Filipinx people. My biggest takeaway from the medical mission is that the work doesn’t end here. As the Filipinx movement continues to grow, our community needs these accessible opportunities and resources - like the NAFCON medical mission - that allow us to continue to serve our community. We must keep asking questions about how what is happening in the Philippines is closely tied to what is happening throughout the diaspora. Moving forward, we must continue to support and uplift the community organizing efforts and programs of NAFCON and other Filipinx organizations as a way to contribute to the Filipinx movement.