A 1000 Hugs Project Featured by Philippine Daily Inquirer
Sendong’s children, 10 weeks after
By Cathy Babao-Guballa
March 11, 2012
For many of us, life has gone on after our initial efforts to help our brothers and sisters in Northern Mindanao. It’s been 10 weeks since typhoon Washi, or Sendong, devastated Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, leaving almost 2,000 people dead.
The United Nations Humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines, Jacqui Badcock, and donor-representatives visited CDO and Iligan in February to see how the humanitarian programs they set up have been addressing the needs for shelter, food, basic social services and livelihood programs.
“I have visited these sites several times since the flash floods, and each time, I have been impressed with the progress made, be it rows of bunkhouses built or an expansion of humanitarian services provided,” said Badcock. “This is a testimony of the good collaboration between the authorities and aid agencies that has continued to strengthen over the weeks.”
Badcock was impressed with the resilience of the affected communities.
“Many people with whom I spoke expressed a desire for work and for means of livelihood. We need more resources to help them get back on their feet as soon as possible.”
Life in CDO and Iligan has not returned to normal. While we in the city continue to be “entertained” by the goings-on in the Senate or the antics of some politicians, thousands of people in the south continue to be at risk.
More than 211,000 people remain displaced in Iligan and CDO, according to a UN report. The majority of the displaced are living with host families or in makeshift shelters; about 13,600 people are in 40 evacuation centers. Humanitarian agencies estimate that 69,000 people living in tents and schools urgently need temporary shelters while houses are being constructed.
The Philippines’ Humanitarian Country team seeks a funding of $39 million to cover the humanitarian and early recovery needs of over 624,000 people until June. More than $14 million has been received already, leaving unmet requirements of $25 million.
Negros Oriental, which was struck by an earthquake last February, and the devastated towns of Guihulngan and La Libertad are yet another story.
Because the deficit is so large and the need so great, the desire to help, no matter which part of the world you are in, remains.
In Manila, for the Black Pencil Project and Climb Against Cancer, we partnered with the Rural Missionaries of Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region and the psychosocial support group, Ginhawa, to bring teddy bears and stuffed toys to children affected by Sendong in CDO and Iligan. The campaign gathered 3,000 bears and stuffed toys.
Almost 2,000 bears, packed by college students of Ateneo de Manila, 75 balikbayan boxes were delivered on Valentine’s Day to evacuation centers in CDO and Iligan. The boxes were flown to CDO for free by Philippine Airlines through PAL Foundation’s Carmen Sarmiento.
The furry friends came from all over. There was a shipment from the Brentwood community in the East Bay, San Francisco. Myda Aguilar Prieto rallied friends and gathered seven balikbayan boxes which were then flown in courtesy of DHL. Those stuffed toys will go to Guihulngan and La Libertad in Negros Oriental, and other unreached areas in Iligan.
Friends from Bacolod, led by Isabel Lovina, have also collected toys and care packages for Negros Oriental children.
In the grand scheme of things, a stuffed toy might be a small thing compared to shelter or food on the table. However, to a child who has lost practically everything, having something to hug in these uncertain times is sheer joy. While we cannot solve the world’s problems, we do what we can to alleviate the sufferings of others.
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