Rebuilding the Philippines: 3 local initiatives you can support right now

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.


Constructing a bangka on Bantayan Island, a boat typically used for fishing.
(photo courtesy Bangon Bantayanons Facebook page)

Adopt A Small Island Initiative

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.

If you would like to make a donation, visit the Adopt a Small Island Initiative’s website. For updates on their progress, visit their Facebook page.


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.

For more information, visit their Facebook page. To give hope, visit their page on Publicus Asia.

Bangon Bantayanons

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!

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More ways you can help the Philippines

Survivors stand amidst debris in the city of Tacloban.
(photo via Erik de Castro/Reuters)

Over the weekend, Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines. The death toll is estimated at 10,000 in the Leyte province alone, and there is widespread infrastructure damage.

The Huffington Post and CNN have posted roundups of organizations that are sending supplies, people, and more. Here are some other ways to help:

  1. Donate. The all-veteran disaster relief organization Team Rubicon is raising funds to send its vets to help with search and rescue efforts and medical assistance.
  2. Donate. The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is currently accepting donations for community aid.
  3. Tweet. Micromappers is asking people to be strategic about tagging typhoon tweets so the UN can gain a better understanding of the situation.
  4. Hack. Geeklist is looking for developers, designers, and other techies for good to get involved with a hackathon for various projects, including building a relief coordination and survivor check-in app.
  5. Report. The social news network Rappler needs help reporting critical information such as flooding, road or building damage, or those who need rescue or assistance.
  6. Work. Merlin, a UK-based disaster relief organization, is looking to recruit emergency staff who can help long-term (three-to-six months).

Check your local Filipino-American groups or associations and the Super Typhoon Haiyan – Yolanda Recovery Facebook group for more ways to help. Please also leave a comment if you know of more opportunities.

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Respond and Rebuild: Community-led disaster relief in NYC

More than five months after Hurricane Sandy tore into the coasts of New York and New Jersey, many people are still feeling the effects. One neighborhood that suffered great losses and is still digging out is Rockaway, Queens, where the nonprofit organization Respond and Rebuild is working to repair damaged homes and get residents back inside.

The idea

Shanna Snider and Terri Bennett, two founders of the disaster response nonprofit Respond and Rebuild, met when they were volunteering with relief efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Neither woman had any prior field experience with disaster relief, but they both took an instant liking to it.


Terri Bennett (all photos courtesy of Respond and Rebuild)

“It’s a weird kind of work to enjoy,” says Terri. “The world would be a better place if it wasn’t needed.”

After months spent helping in the Caribbean, Shanna, Terri, and three other good friends they’d made on the island scattered around the map. They watched from different vantage points in 2012 as Hurricane Sandy drew closer and closer, and then struck—hard.

The five friends, soon to be joined by another they’d meet in New York, dropped what they were doing and, in 24 hours, made tracks to the Rockaway Peninsula—11 miles of beach at the southern edge of Queens whose neighborhoods were devastated by the storm. Nearly 100 homes were completely destroyed and many more seriously damaged, over ten thousand residents were displaced, and the power was out for weeks.

“When we came out here, we just wanted to help,” says Shanna. “We didn’t intend for it to become an organization—we all had other plans.” When the hurricane struck, Shanna was weeks away from leaving the U.S. to serve with the Peace Corps in Jamaica, and Terri was halfway through a Ph.D. program in international development and humanitarian relief. “But this took off,” Shanna says. “So why would I leave? This is obviously where I’m supposed to be.”


Shanna Snider

Respond and Rebuild is now the leading volunteer group working side-by-side with homeowners and community leaders in Rockaway to safely clean out and repair damaged homes so their owners can return to them. The water removal, mucking, and (their specialty) mold remediation they perform is funded by donations and comes at no cost to the residents.

“Organizationally, we wanted to do something different than we’d seen done before. We wanted to be community-led and centered—not to drop in and tell the community, ‘This is what you have’ and ‘This is what you need,’ Shanna says. “The community here has really shaped what we do; they’ve led us to be able to meet their needs very directly.”


Respond and Rebuild’s success has not come without challenges. Here are a few Shanna and Terri have come across:

Obstacle: Living conditions
Solution: For the first five weeks of their operation, the initial members of Respond and Rebuild all lived together in a one-bedroom apartment near the beach. At times, it was hard for the crew to keep the organization running without going crazy.

But when they reached out to the community for help, they quickly secured two larger apartments to live in rent-free. “Everyone is vulnerable to disaster. So it’s a cause that touches people in a different way: it’s very personal,” Shanna says. “When we asked for assistance, people really opened their hearts and homes.”

Obstacle: Narrowing focus and asserting expertise
Solution: Given that there are a lot of needs in disaster response, Shanna and Terri knew they needed to give a focus to what they were trying to do.

“One thing we identified early on was our signature ‘cause’,” says Terri. “Mold. We became ‘the mold people.’ We researched and outfitted volunteers, waged a public health campaign, reached out to experts and other city orgs who had experience… We were the most organized group you could speak to about it, and that gained us trust.”

Obstacle: The ebb and flow of a volunteer-led group
Solution: “Especially in the first few months after a disaster, people come and go,” says Shanna. “And that can be a very emotional experience. But the group that remains, the core that’s left behind, is the one that works best together. It can be hard to hang on and not burn out; to recognize when to step back and breathe and when to give 150 percent. The ones that are left are the ones who figured out the balance. And as things formalize and become more structured, it gets easier.”



Volunteers pose in their ‘Mold Buster’ suits

Since the end of October 2012, Respond and Rebuild’s hundreds of volunteers have logged an average of 1,800 hours a week to bring more than 100 homes back to livability. And the work continues.

Currently, Shanna and Terri are developing a blueprint of their organizational model, which they plan to share with others. In the meantime, here’s their advice for people who want to coordinate their own disaster response effort:

  • Just do it. “Trust yourself and the people you work with,” says Shanna.
  • Share skills.“We all had different skill sets and experiences that complemented each other: logistics, construction, management, communications, fundraising. And we also worked to partner right away with other organizations, which was a great way to take what we all had and make it most effective.”
  • Ask for and accept help. “Never be so arrogant as to think you don’t need help,” says Shanna. “I make a lot of calls and ask for a lot of favors. No one has all the answers by themselves, but together, you can get close.”
  • Be open to advice. “If someone else has already learned the lesson, don’t waste time relearning it yourself,” says Shanna. “Take advice openly, then decide if it’s right for your mission.”
  • Maintain balance. “Initially, adrenaline pushes you forward in disaster relief,” says Terri. “But as the immediate relief period comes to a close, the pace changes. Now we’d like to focus on employing local people, moving forward with partnerships, and developing a case management system for homeowners.”

“In five years, I can see us doing this work around the world,” Terri says. “But having the patience to take on all these things can be difficult. We’ll have to balance focusing and growing.”

Inspired to help with disaster relief in a community you’re close to? Read more about Respond and Rebuild’s successful model on their website, or contact them through Idealist. In the NYC area? They’re always looking for new volunteers and donations.

Respond and Rebuild is also always looking to make their nonprofit better. If you have experience with disaster relief, they would love your advice about what surprise obstacles they might expect to encounter down the road. Or if you have experience with volunteer management, they’d love to know your ideas on best practices to retain volunteers, and on the best volunteer and donor tracking solutions.

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Hiring? Here's why veterans can be your greatest asset

“There are support services for vets, but a lot of vets don’t want to be helped,” says Joanne Dennis, Director of Program Development at Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans in disaster response, and also helps aid the transition back to civilian life. “Vets don’t want your pity, they don’t want your sorrow. They want to help others.” A recent Civic Enterprises report revealed that 92% of veterans want to continue serving their communities after their military service.


Veterans dedicate their skills to disaster relief efforts. Could they also be a good fit for your organization? (Photo: Team Rubicon Flickr stream)

That desire to serve has drawn more than 500 veterans to apply to volunteer with Team Rubicon in disaster relief missions in places like Burma, Haiti, and Joplin, MO since it was founded in January 2010. But while Team Rubicon’s volunteer base is growing fast, it can’t help with job placement. “We have some firemen who volunteer with us on their days off, and a lot of college students. But a lot of the volunteers are in transition,” explains Joanne. “They’ve come home to an economic climate where they just can’t find jobs. And especially jobs that have meaning or purpose.”

In an uncertain economic climate, many nonprofit leaders and business owners are understandably unwilling to take risks – especially when hiring. When faced with a stack of resumes, why choose the person whose background you are uncertain of and whose experience on paper doesn’t directly translate to your organization’s needs?

That’s the reality most veterans are facing when applying for jobs today. They come home with countless “soft” skills, including management and supervision, team-building, and the ability to successfully lead diverse groups of people while staying calm under pressure. These skills often don’t translate to traditional workplaces where recruiters are looking for resumes with years of conventional experience. But they are often the trademarks of an irreplaceable colleague, especially in a mission-driven organization.

In August, President Obama challenged the private sector to hire 100,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by 2013. This Veteran’s Day, we’re curious whether nonprofits and other agencies and organizations are heeding that call as well.

Have you hired folks with military experience? Are you a veteran currently looking for work? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

This post was written by Bernadette Matthews, a volunteer with Team Rubicon, and Idealist bloggers Celeste Hamilton and Julia Smith. (Full disclosure: Celeste Hamilton and Joanne Dennis are in-laws.)

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Headlines: Oscar-ternatives, Peace Corps, Christchurch

Just a few of the headlines that caught our attention this week.


Oscar statue detail (photo by Dave_B_ via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Forget The Social Network and The King’s Speech…

Happy 50th anniversary, Peace Corps

Tech + earthquake relief, revolution, and more

Send us a story: Who is doing the best job covering Libya? What about the Defense of Marriage Act developments? If you read something that moved you to action or gave you hope, leave a comment below or tweet it to us @idealist.

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Helping in Haiti – Six Months Later

By Erin Barnhart.

This past January, in response to the many requests we received from people seeking information on how to volunteer in Haiti following its devastating earthquake, we blogged that one of the best things would-be volunteers could do was donate money to those organizations with trained personnel already in-country and then wait for the situation on the ground to stabilize before seeking to volunteer themselves. We also advised that the work of recovery and rebuilding following major disasters is enormous and complex and that volunteers would be needed to partner with local communities for months and years afterward. We suggested that individuals be patient and keep checking back for expanded opportunities to get involved.

From the UNDP via Flickr/Creative Commons

Now, six months later, we thought we’d take a look to see what new volunteer projects and roles have emerged in the intervening months for those who are eager to lend a hand in or for Haiti.

Volunteering Today

The heartbreaking news is that there is still so much work to be done for Haiti to recover from the devastation of January 12. But the good news is that more and more opportunities are opening up for caring global citizens to lend a hand and partner with local residents in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

A quick search of volunteer opportunities posted on our site turned up over 70 Haiti-focused volunteer projects and roles, both on the ground in Haiti as well as from local communities around the globe. In addition to there simply being more opportunities, there has also been an expansion in the sheer range of skills and talents sought. Here are some that are currently in demand:

  • Agricultural assistance
  • Animation
  • Business consulting
  • Carpentry
  • Child care
  • Counseling and trauma assistance
  • Database management
  • Engineering
  • Environmental and conservation roles
  • Food distribution
  • Fundraising and development
  • Graphic design
  • Human resources management
  • Legal assistance
  • Medical and health care (including physical and occupational therapy)
  • Oral history
  • Organizational capacity development
  • Outreach, advertising, and public relations
  • Photojournalism
  • Project management
  • Social media
  • Tax advising
  • Teaching and training
  • Translation
  • Urban planning
  • Videography and filmmaking
  • Volunteer coordination
  • Water resource management
  • Website design and maintenance
  • Writing

Want to learn more about how you might help? Search our site for volunteer opportunities. Also, if you were interested in helping in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, consider looking for opportunities to participate in disaster response training in your local community now; getting trained today could prepare you to serve as a first responder in a future disaster situation.

For more information on what’s happening now in Haiti, check out Hope for Haiti now.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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More to Do in Haiti – Lots More

From Mariana Nissen/UNDP via Creative Commons

Economists with the Inter-American Development Bank estimate that the full cost of rebuilding in Haiti may come close to $14 billion — making the January 12 earthquake the most destructive in modern history. A sad superlative to see applied anywhere in the world, but especially bitter for a country already struggling with poverty, ecological deterioration, and political turmoil.

A month after the earthquake, a giant recovery effort is underway. Assistance has come from governments, organizations and individuals in every part of the globe. On February 18, five weeks after the disaster, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported U.S. organizations working on relief and reconstruction had received $774 million in charitable donations. Large amounts of private and governmental assistance have come to Haiti from many other countries as well.

Pathways to volunteer to help with the recovery are becoming clearer; Idealist’s Erin Barnhart offered a round-up here recently. For businesses and individuals with the capacity to offer in-kind donations that might be useful, there’s a long list of needs compiled from requests by nonprofits at work in Haiti.

Many knowledgeable voices urge, though, that the absolute best way to help the recovery efforts is to donate cash to an organization with the capacity to put your money to work immediately on high priority needs in Haiti. The United States Better Business Bureau has advice about what to look for (and what to look out for) when thinking about helping with a cash donation, along with a list of organizations that meet the BBB standards of accountability and are already at work in Haiti.

One final note: If you haven’t prepared your tax return yet and are considering itemizing deductions, a special rule will allow including donations made for Haiti relief during 2010 on the return due April 15th — but only if the donations are made before March 1st (the IRS explanation is here). Of course, any qualifying donation made now can be deducted on Schedule A in 2011, so this is not an all or nothing deal…just a little extra nudge.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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[Volunteering & Service] Helping in Haiti, One Month Later

By Erin Barnhart.

From UNDP via Flickr/Creative Commons

Last month, in response to the many requests we received from people for information on how to volunteer in Haiti, we blogged that one of the best things would-be volunteers could do today was donate money to those organizations with trained personnel already in-country and then wait for the situation on the ground to stabilize before seeking to volunteer themselves.

As we approach the one-month anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, we wanted to give you a quick update on some of the emerging opportunities to get involved.

Given that many organizations are still in the process of responding to immediate need while assessing longer-term recovery strategies, there are still relatively few opportunities for new volunteers in Haiti. However, a quick search of the volunteer opportunities posted on our site turned up over 50 projects and roles for volunteers to assist with recovery efforts, both on the ground in Haiti as well as in local communities around the globe. Here are a few examples:

Volunteering in Haiti

While opportunities to volunteer in Haiti are still being developed, there are already a handful—some providing direct service, others related to organizational needs assessments—posted on our site. Here are two that were recently posted:

  • Visions in Action, based in Washington, DC, is seeking a volunteer for an immediate two to four week placement in Haiti. This volunteer will coordinate VIA’s needs assessment on the ground in partnership with their Program Development Manager in DC. Ideal candidates will have a university degree and be fluent in French and English, among other requirements.
  • Global Volunteer Network, based in New Zealand, is developing a new volunteer program to engage people in disaster relief in Haiti. They are currently conducting a needs assessment to determine how volunteers can best partner with local citizens and organizations but plan on sending their first group of volunteers sometime around March to help with such tasks as teaching, health and medical assistance, business development, and building and construction. Volunteer placements will likely be from one week to six months.

To find additional in-country opportunities to volunteer, search our site here.

Volunteering from Your Local Community

There are also a number of local volunteer opportunities designed to aid and assist Haitian relief efforts, from providing counseling to support local families affected by the disaster, to participating in fundraisers and remote assessment and relief projects, to serving as part of the support team to staff and volunteers currently in Haiti. Here are some of the projects taking place in the United States (to find out what’s happening in your country, search our site here!):

Again, these are just a few of the many ways people can volunteer to help with relief efforts in Haiti. To discover more, search our site here. You may consider also looking for opportunities to participate in disaster response training in your local community; getting trained today means that you may be prepared to serve as a first responder in a future disaster situation.

Finally, to quote our blog post from last month, the work of recovery and rebuilding following major disasters is enormous and complex and volunteers will be needed to partner with local communities for months and years afterward. So if you don’t see the ideal opportunity to contribute as a volunteer today, please do keep checking back. Haiti is on a long path to recovery and there will almost certainly be an opportunity for caring global citizens to contribute their time, skills, and expertise down the road.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Resuming Our Usual Blog Schedule; Keeping Haiti in Our Thoughts

This week we resume our usual blog posting schedule, spreading good ideas about community work, technology and communications, nonprofit careers and volunteer service around the globe.

As we do this, our thoughts remain with Haiti. Here is a roundup of the posts we have written about recovery efforts so far:

The Long Road to Recovery — and How You Can Help

Haiti: Technology in a Time of Crisis

Helping Haiti: Things to Consider

Haiti Earthquake Response

We will write about Haiti again when we have more to add to the conversation. In the meantime, thank you for all that you are doing to support relief efforts.

[This blog entry first appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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The Long Road to Recovery – and How You Can Help

By Erin Barnhart.

From Chuck Simmons via Flickr/Creative Commons

When a major disaster happens in the world, it’s common, and frankly humanity-affirming, for global citizens to want to help. However, when the disaster in question is as devastating as last week’s earthquake in Haiti, it is often the case that the primary way folks are encouraged to get involved is to raise funds, raise voices, and raise awareness. And while fundraising, advocacy, and public awareness are critically important activities to participate in, they can sometimes be frustrating substitutes for those who are seeking to lend a hand in a more direct and tangible way by volunteering.

Yet for those seeking to contribute their skills, time, and energy on the ground in a disaster response situation, the advice is generally to wait. Many times the disaster area is so chaotic, the needs so dire, and the resources so scarce, the work at hand is best left to those already trained in effective disaster response and emergency relief; indeed, well-meaning yet ill-trained volunteers can actually become a hindrance or liability in these situations, slowing the delivery of critically needed services.

It’s important to note here though that the advice is not to forget about volunteering but rather to wait. Disaster response can be an extraordinarily large endeavor and once the environment has become more stabilized and critical human needs have been or are more effectively being met, there is usually significant rebuilding work to be done. Indeed volunteers will be and are needed months if not years post-disaster to assist with everything from home and school construction to education and social services to environmental conservation.

Consider 2005’s catastrophic Hurricane Katrina and its impact on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Five years later, there is still significant recovery work underway in Louisiana and Mississippi; a quick search of Idealist’s volunteer opportunity postings today turns up requests for volunteers to partner in tasks like:

  • Rebuilding homes
  • Assisting with historic preservation
  • Delivering meals and other social services
  • Transcribing oral histories
  • Conducting community outreach
  • Engaging in advocacy
  • Updating and redesigning websites
  • Providing pro bono legal advice and counsel

In short, the work of recovery and rebuilding following major disasters is enormous and complex and volunteers are needed to partner with local communities for months and years afterward. For those eager to lend a hand in Haiti, consider investing today in the skilled organizations, staff, and volunteers already on the ground by donating money; interested future volunteers might also explore local opportunities to participate in disaster response training (getting trained today means you may be more likely to serve as a first responder in a future disaster situation.) In the meantime, however, start planning to volunteer down the road. You will almost certainly be needed.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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