Mitt Romney was in the Philippines for one specific mission

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This recent visit of U.S. Senator-elect Mitt Romney and his family is their fourth overseas trip with Charity Vision, a non-profit organization based in the U.S. state of Utah. Photo by CNN PHILIPPINES

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — “What’s my name? Mitt, Mitt,” pointing to the name tag sticker on his shirt.

American politician Mitt Romney introduced himself to a group of children, sitting outside a barangay center in Tondo, Manila. Inside, Romney, together with Filipino medical and civilian volunteers, participated in a series of screenings ranging from simple eye exams to assessing the severity of certain birth deformities.

Unknown to the many people around him, there isn’t much that Romney hasn’t done. He’s a family man who ran for President of the United States under the Republican Party in 2012. Ten years prior, he was credited for saving the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And long before then, he was already a successful businessman.

Determined to make a difference in lives that are so different from his own, Romney came to the Philippines, wanting to give back. Along with his wife of almost 50 years, other family members, and friends, they were in the country for a six-day humanitarian mission.

“We put out large signs indicating we would be coming, where we indicated that if people had eyesight issues, or cleft palate issues or other types of problems of that nature, that they can come in for a screening,” Romney said.

Speaking exclusively to CNN Philippines he said, “At this stage in my life, I want to fight for the things I believe in and find help everywhere I can — for things that are most important to me — my family, my faith, and my belief in the fundamental principles of democracy and freedom.”

IMG_0690.JPG Along with his wife, other family members, and friends, Romney was in the country for a six-day humanitarian mission. Photo by CNN PHILIPPINES

IMG_0573.jpeg Having “vision” as their mission, the Charity Vision foundation has facilitated over 375,000 charitable surgeries all over the world to people suffering from needless blindness. Photo by CNN PHILIPPINES

It was the Romney family’s fourth overseas trip with Charity Vision, a non-profit organization based in the U.S. state of Utah. Having “vision” as their mission, the foundation has facilitated over 700,000 charitable surgeries all over the world to people suffering from needless blindness. But over the years, the group has done so much more, providing medical treatments to those in need through the help of local partners in 25 countries, including the Philippines, where it all began.

“A number of years ago, an American doctor came here [Manila] and found there was an opportunity to help people that had conditions that were not being met at that time,” Romney said.

IMG_0695.JPG On his trip, Romney praised Filipinos for their love of freedom and democracy saying, “It is important for free nations to work together, so we can preserve freedom, and at the same time preserve the freedom of the seas, and the freedom of the skies. That we can promote the principles that have brought great power to free nations around the world.” Photo by CNN PHILIPPINES

He was referring to Dr. William “Bill” Jackson, who along with his wife Audrey, worked as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the mid-80s. The couple fell in love with the Filipino people, but they were heartbroken to see disabled people, especially children with deformities who couldn’t get the medical treatment they needed. They had had a strong resolve to help so they set up the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, which has now become the largest surgical charity in the country today.

Romney’s trip comes a few weeks before he starts a new job as Senator of Utah, following a successful run in last month’s U.S. midterm elections, making him one of the most high-profile Republicans in Congress. “America’s role in the world is important for our country to consider, as I travel in different parts of the world,” he explained. “People look to the United States to be a leader. To lead for human rights, to pursue passion for democracy and freedom around the world.”

Romney also acknowledged the shared history between the United States and the Philippines. “I was able to visit Corregidor Island. And was taught about the great sacrifices made there both by Americans and Filipinos fighting for freedom,” he said.

IMG_9267.jpeg Mitt and his wife Ann with Rizal, one of the patients of Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. Photo by CNN PHILIPPINES

He praised Filipinos for their love of freedom and democracy saying, “It is important for free nations to work together, so we can preserve freedom, and at the same time preserve the freedom of the seas, and the freedom of the skies. That we can promote the principles that have brought great power to free nations around the world.”

At 71, Romney is an old school American patriot, filled with the contagious enthusiasm of a much younger man — confident that he can make a positive difference in his country and beyond.

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Armie Jarin-Bennett is a volunteer at the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. To learn more about Mabuhay Deseret, go to mabuhaydeseretfoundation.org