AF3IRM launches to honor fallen transnational healthcare workers

by Ricky Rillera

NEW YORK – AF3IRM, a transnational feminist organization, has launched Website on May 26, dedicated to honoring healthcare workers of and from the Philippines who have succumbed to the coronavirus and in the hope that such tribute will confer humanity on the death statistics. These numbers represent a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a husband, a father, or a friend.

According to AF3IRM, Kanlungan is a Pilipino evocative word for shelter and resting place. The Website’s logo and the design was created by Iris Boncales-Strauss together with several IT professionals – Cherisse Yanit Nadal, US allies Grace Regullamo and Cy; allies in Canada led by committee member Charlene Sayo; friends in Australia and the Middle East, as well as partners in the Philippines. Ninotchka Rosca and Joleen Levid spearhead the Transnational Committee under the Office of the National Chairperson Connie Huynh.

Iris Boncales-Strauss | Facebook

Boncales-Strauss, the creator of the Website’s symbol, said that her mother was one of the Filipino nurses recruited in the early 1960’s to work at the Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. “One in four Filipinos work in the healthcare industry. They are nurses, porters, health care assistants, homecare givers, doctors, food service…They are on the frontlines and our community is traumatized more than ever from losing family, friends, our kababayan, one after another from this pandemic,” she said.

She said she painted the symbol with a heavy heart to honor my kababayan who have lost their lives to save others. “Today and every day, I honor you.” includes the names, location, and circumstances of the death of Filipino/Filipina/NB healthcare workers, their professions, cities, states, and countries they were practicing in at the time of their untimely deaths performing their commitment to caring and healing.

At present, the AF3IRM Transnational Committee, which spearheads this initiative, has collected over 152 healthcare workers of the Philippines who have died, many outside their home country. They are at the Tributes page of the Website, which according to AF3IRM, will be updated in real time as information is culled from secondary sources, and/or provided by families, friends, and colleagues of the departed.

Visitors can navigate through pages and will also have access to links to articles and Website of sources used to verify the information’s accuracy. A global map of the COVID-19 deaths and data charts on the disproportionate death of Philippine healthcare workers are likewise shown.

2019-2023 AF3IRM National Chairperson Connie Huynh (left), GabNet 1989 Founding Chairperson Ninotchka Rosca (center), and Joleen Levid, AF3IRM Founding Chairperson. | Facebook

Another informative feature of the Website is a section, Why They Came: A Historical and Political Context, dedicated to the export healthcare history with links to recent articles and scholarly journals documenting the reasons of why nurses and medical professionals left the Philippines to work somewhere else – particularly to the US. Academics, journalists, writers, organizers, and loved ones of the deceased may access the data and contribute stories.

The AF3IRM Transnational Committee said that as the Philippines remains the world’s top exporter of medical skills, “it is crucial to recognize both the history and the current contribution of such (im)migrants to the continuing task of ensuring health for humanity.” The Committee emphasized the worth of the skills and dedication of immigrants, healthcare workers from the Philippines who have been working in various healthcare systems around the world. These are the doctors to hospital porters and housekeepers to ambulance drivers.

Source: AF3IRM | Facebook
Source: AF3IRM | Facebook

The Committee vowed to do the job of collecting the data of fallen Philippine transnational healthcare workers around the world, which no state, including the Philippines, is doing.

According to AF3IRM, some 20,000 work in the National Healthcare System of England. In the Middle East, nurses from the Philippines continue to be the bulk of the healthcare system. Six of ten nurses in the United Arab Emirates, for instance, are from the Philippines.

The Committee accepts contributions of both the information and monetary kind, to keep the work forging onward. As the Internet is forever, the Transnational Committee hopes that the Website will remain an eternal flame of memory for the healthcare workers of Philippine ancestry. For further information, please email Media contacts are also available for interviews.

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