Caring for 4,000 Children’s Eyes: The Conscious Heart of Apl.de.ap


“ALL relationships are sacred. Relationships are the sacred space in which we live out our full development. Essence lives in the spaces between us, as well as in ourselves and in the universe at large. If essence does not live in our relations with others, it does not live at all. The way we treat others is the measure of how conscious our hearts have become. It cannot be otherwise.”—Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D. and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., The Conscious Heart, 1997.

Press conferences are hardly inspiring. They are for the most part straightforward in information gathering. But when Apl.de.ap announced his foundation’s partnership with the Vision Center of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the conscious hearts of Apl.de.ap and his partners were for all of us to feel.

You could feel deeply who they are: folks who care passionately about children and from that space of feeling their needs, they spoke with integrity on how to prevent premature blindness from 10,000 miles away.

Apl.de.ap believes education is an equalizer.  By partnering with the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology, this partnership will train more doctors on how to detect, to diagnose and treat premature babies’ retinopathy.

In a country with 96 million population, only 26 doctors can currently treat this condition.

In collaboration with Philippine Academy of Opthalmology, Apl.de.ap International and Children’s Hospital will increase the current capacity of 26 doctors to an additional 24 to 40 doctors, who can treat approximately 4,300 premature babies.

Every year, at least 10 percent of all births in the Philippines involve premature babies, caused in part by the lack of adequate prenatal care.  Three out of 10 premature babies develop retinopathy and become blind each year.

In 1942, 7,000 babies went blind in the United States and it took 60 years for this country to diagnose and to treat this disease. Yet, if diagnosed and treated within 48 hours, blindness as a permanent condition can be prevented.

Currently, The Vision Center of Children’s Hospital has worked with Armenia Eyecare Project, funded by USAID, where digital photos are taken of these newborn’s eyes and posted on Facebook. Dr. Thomas Lee at Children’s Hospital and his staff, who are linked to USC’s School of Medicine, lend their diagnostic skills and through Facebook, respond confidentially.

Dr. Lee showed me a particular posting on Facebook wherein he advised which medical device (laser) to use to correct a certain eye condition, or use avastin, a drug to administer, in a short window of 48 hours, so blindness is reversed.

This is when one appreciates American technology, American education and the American way of solving problems from its root cause, giving newborn premature babies a level playing field to those born normal, after a nine-month pregnancy.

It is a personal mission for Apl.de.ap, who was born with nystagmus, making him legally blind; but through a series of operations, his eyesight improved. The latest operation — in which a lens was placed next to his retina (instead of external contact lenses) — resulted in a five percent improvement and gave him the ability to swim in the ocean.

What the partnership will do

It is estimated that the whole project of training doctors in four pilot hospitals, Manila, and one hospital each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will cost $650,000.

Western Union gave the lead donation of $150,000. The Apl.de.ap Foundation has scheduled two concert fundraisers to support this project. The first was held on June 8 at the Greek Theater near Griffith Park, where an estimated 5,000 watched The Black Eyed Peas and a second at Agua Caliente’s 2014 Summer Extravaganza in Palm Springs, Calif. is set for August 16, where a key raffle prize is a 2014 racing red Ford Mustang.  Additional donations can be made via www.ForFilipinoChildren.com.

The foundation is working with local doctors, selected for their passion to train others, who in turn will become teachers to others, and thereby, have the internal capacity to perform the needed surgeries within 48 hours of birth, a “Train the Trainers’ Program, “ using international experts to develop that capacity.

This is strategic philanthropy, which collaborates with needy countries, from a place of empowering their citizens, their passion revealed on the ground — not as mendicant beggars.

The Philippines can strategically become a country where blindness is no longer normalized and accepted as “fate,” but where disabilities are reversed during a short window of 48 hours and not made permanent.

From a legally blind child, Apl.de.ap was given a chance to see, when he was adopted by his father, Joe Hudgens and brought to California at age 14.  Before he was enrolled at John Marshall High School, he met Will.I.am and together, formed The Black Eyed Peas (BEP).

Fast forward to now, BEP has won multiple Grammys and sold 70 million records worldwide.

Only a few years old, “the Apl.de.ap Foundation International has focused on education. It has since built 34+ classrooms and has 15 scholars completing their higher education at Holy Angels University.  The Foundation has built a music studio and computer lab in the two schools that Apl attended in his hometown of Sapang Bato in Pampanga, Philippines.  Together with Department of Education, Apl.de.ap Foundation has also participated in building new schools, especially in far flung and hard-to-reach areas of the country. To date, it has built 15 new schools, including in war-torn Zamboanga,“ according to its press release.

But more than sharing, Apl.de.ap’s conscious heart feels what is needed and mobilizes the Apl.de.ap International Foundation team. His team then collaborates and discovers like-minded passionate allies, and strategically, forms partnerships that make sense for the long term, but also shows respect for local talent in the Philippines.

During this two year period, newborn premature babies will have not just seeing eyes, but a leg up. They will be cared for as normal babies, with eyesight, and when it is time, they will see what needs to be done to design their own bright futures in the Philippines.

* * *

Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. starts her 7th year of writing for Asian Journal Press/Balikbayan Magazine.  She served as LA City’s Commissioner for Civil Service and LA Convention Center for 3 years.  She retired from the California Dept. of Public Health, after a career service of 27 years. She has been a community volunteer to various boards of non-profits for decades. She enjoys travelling to national parks and developing recipes using organic produce. She is an avid supporter of gifted musicians and performing artists.

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