Hope floats for ‘Yolanda’ survivors
Many of them lost their homes when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) crept up on them one night in November 2013 while they were sleeping.
Most of them lost their means of livelihood: fishing boats, sari-sari stores, tricycles, and beasts of burden. Many of them lost family members and loved ones—some never even found their lost loved ones’ bodies.
To describe what happened as “tragic” is an understatement. To the people whose lives Yolanda destroyed in one fell swoop, the situation was nothing short of hopeless… until help came pouring in, from all over.
Immediately, people of every nation, color and race came to the survivors’ aid.
Susan Tan, a resort owner in Guiuan, Eastern Samar—the easternmost tip of the Philippines where Yolanda made its first landfall—related that the quiet little town suddenly turned into a bustling “United Nations” neighborhood.
“Everyone wanted to help, but it was tough. How do you get the relief goods to the people who need them when the airport isn’t operating? If you do get your goods down to the affected provinces, how do you transport them into the towns? It was a big logistics nightmare,” she related.
Instead of dwelling on the problem, Tan decided that she would do something about the situation. Even while her seaside resort remained badly damaged and after her small grocery store was emptied by looters, she set up a relief operations center that helped those who wanted to help reach the right beneficiaries.
The right partner
In barely affected Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation Inc. (NVC) thought of how it could help the Yolanda survivors. Through its Peter Project, NVC has already given several fishing boats to fishermen who could not afford to buy their own. That was even before Yolanda struck.
After Yolanda, the need to distribute fishing boats became even greater. NVC president Millie Kilayko related that the group started validating beneficiaries in Yolanda-affected areas so NVC could distribute the boats that donors entrusted to the organization. Boat donations started with just a handful, then 20, then 40—until one day, NVC found itself helping implement ABS-CBN Foundation Sagip Kapamilya’s massive fishing boat donation program.
In looking for beneficiaries, NVC reached Guiuan and became fast friends with Tan. After all, they had the same objective: to bring help where it is needed.
As luck would have it, British American Tobacco (BAT) Philippines crossed paths with NVC in June 2014, after months of searching for the right on-the-ground partner for the implementation of the company’s own Project Yolanda. It didn’t take long for a partnership to be sealed. After another few months, NVC found suitable beneficiaries for BAT Philippines’ P10-million Yolanda infrastructure and livelihood fund: Brgy. Catmon in Naval, Biliran; Brgy. Garawon in Hernani, Eastern Samar; and Brgy. Bagacay in Tacloban City, Leyte.
Since the signing of the agreement between BAT Philippines and NVC, 30 households in Brgy. Catmon have repaired their houses using donated materials and 44 fishermen have received new boats—four of which were personal donations of BAT Philippines general manager James Lafferty.
Construction is ongoing for a multipurpose community center, which should be completed by April.
In Brgy. Garawon, BAT Philippines gave fishing nets and fishing kits to 50 fishermen, as well as tricycles to three beneficiaries. A multipurpose community center is also being built and a rice outlet being set up through the help of BAT Philippines.
In Brgy. Bagacay, 10 pedicabs and 35 fishing boats have already been turned over to beneficiaries.
“Many of the people in these communities lost not only their means of livelihood but also their loved ones. In our small way, we want to help them rebuild their lives, little by little,” Lafferty said. “This is also one way for BAT Philippines to give back to the country, especially the Yolanda survivors.”
Following the devastation of Yolanda, BAT Philippines sought the help of its parent firm in the United Kingdom to come up with funds to be earmarked for Yolanda-related relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding activities.
BAT in the UK heeded this call, and rallied BAT employees all over the world to make personal contributions to the cause. This global employee donation drive raised around P7 million, which BAT matched, for a total of P14 million.
Of this total amount, P1 million was given to ABS-CBN Foundation’s Sagip Kapamilya in January last year, while more than P9 million was earmarked for livelihood and infrastructure projects in Biliran, Eastern Samar, and Leyte.
The remaining amount is now a standby fund for similar projects in the future.
Kilayko related that private sector partnerships, like the ones NVC had with Tan and BAT Philippines, were exactly what the country needed to ensure a brighter tomorrow, not only for Yolanda survivors but also for all Filipinos.
“NVC was founded four years ago with the vision of harnessing the power of private citizens to create positive and lasting change in their communities and in the country. We believe that all of us private individuals and corporate citizens, if we pool our resources, talents and skills, will be able to forge a better future for the next generation of Filipinos,” she said.
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