When Typhoon Haiyan struck my homeland of the Philippines this past November, I was in Portland, Oregon where I now live. As I read about the mass destruction, I felt helpless being so far away. Tacloban, after all, was home to some of my family.
As the international community came together to help in the aftermath, it was quite moving to witness the generosity of people the world over. Much of the aid addressed immediate needs such as food, shelter, and medicine.
Now that the situation is under control, efforts to reinstate livelihoods and ensure a promising long-term recovery are the priority this new year. It’s true the Filipino spirit is resilient. But it’s the support of friends and strangers alike that keep us going.
These three grassroots organizations have sprung up in the Philippines to contribute to this work. If you’re still looking for a way to help, please consider donating to one of them.
Started by a group of friends who all happen to be development workers, this initiative gives you the opportunity to directly help small island communities.
“Small islands are particularly vulnerable to typhoons not only because of their physical nature but also because a lot of small islands tend to face many socioeconomic challenges—hence the idea of ‘adopting’ an island or two was born,” says co-founder Monica Ortiz. “Recovery is very different from relief—it takes time! We also want to make sure it is sustainable and equitable.”
When you donate, you can help residents purchase a crucial tool for life on a small island: a motorized boat locally known as a bangka.
“Bangkas are vital to these small islands. They serve several purposes: they link people to other small islands and the mainland for access to essential goods and services, and they are also a means of livelihood,” says Monica.
Project PAGLAUM is an initiative of the youth empowerment group, NEWGENRocks!, with the overall goal of helping displaced people get back on their feet and move forward.
Paglaum is the local word for hope—and this, simply, is what the project would like to give the residents of the Visayan province.
“In the aftermath of the Yolanda disaster, it is urgent to enable basic services to be delivered, assist victims’ self-help efforts to repair physical damage and community facilities, and provide support for the psychological and social well-being of the survivors,” says founder RJ Barrete. “The project serves as backroom logistics to match assets with relief provisions and enable rehabilitation and reconstruction.”
They also want to make sure devastation of this magnitude doesn’t happen again.
“The Project PAGLAUM team wants to build something better for the victims, and avoid another disastrous event that can put the lives of the Filipino people at stake,” says RJ.
Bantayan Island was one of the islands greatly affected by the typhoon. The island’s poultry farms were all but destroyed, and 95% of homes lost their roofs. With your help, Bantayanons are determined to rise from all this devastation.
The initiative was started by an owner of a beach house there.
“I told my husband and sister we will help the island. They were really hesitant because it’s hard to do that and ask for donations. I told them there is nothing impossible if we really want to help,” says chairwoman Gail Roska. “So I messaged my cousins and put up a Facebook page.”
Within a week, the page had over four thousand likes with donations pouring in.”Honestly, I never really expected much response from the public,” says Gail.
But help from individuals is still needed. “The government can’t do it on their own,” she says.
For information on how to lend a helping hand, visit Bangon Bantayanons’ Facebook page.
If you’re unable to give financial help to any of these organizations at this time, a shout-out is also much appreciated. Share their information with family and friends, and leave a message of support on their Facebook pages. Salamat!