Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Helping Survivors of Tropical Storm Sendong

Photo of damage from Typhoon Sendong captured by an UMCOR volunteer yesterday.  Photo: UMCOR Philippines

A Student Volunteer's Reflection from the Philippines

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I am not from Cagayan de Oro nor do I live near that city, but I still cannot help being affected emotionally by what happened to our sisters and brothers in Cagayan De Oro City and Iligan City. Watching the news really breaks my heart and I am grieving for these people.

It happened during the weekend while everyone was busy preparing for the coming holidays. Students were excited, it being the last day of classes. Parents were probably busy planning what gifts they would buy for their children. Families were busy planning for their Christmas break. Even offices and schools were busy planning for their Christmas parties. No one, not a soul, was prepared for a calamity that would surpass the death toll of Typhoon Ondoy two years ago.

The first image that I saw of the aftermath of the typhoon was when I logged into my Facebook account and a photo of a car on top of a gate caught my attention. Then streams of photos were shown online: of young children, young men, and old people meeting their cruel end because of the unexpected flash flood. A photo of a young father hugging his children until the hour of death really tugged at my heart.

Then came the day when I travelled to Cagayan de Oro, helping survivors of the calamity. My personal experience is nothing compared to the suffering the Kagayanons and people from some parts of Iligan suffered, including the loss of water--even in hotels. I became more aware of the impact of the typhoon when I joined the United Methodist Committee on Relief as a volunteer at Cagayan. Twenty-three barangays [villages] were reportedly affected by the typhoon due to the overflowing Cagayan River putting Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City in a state of disaster. Nine families in Barangay Lambaguhon died because of the overflowing and fusing of two rivers. Indeed, the stories of death are simply terrifying and beyond comprehension, the devastation so shocking, and the grief so deep--especially in a time when we were supposed to have festivities. It is truly ironic.

But just as Noah’s rainbow from the Bible story, we have also seen rainbows after tropical storm Sendong. They come in the form of the immediate response of individuals, companies, advocacy groups, civic organizations, government institutions, churches, and more that have responded in many different ways. Help was not isolated from Mindanao, but came from the entire nation, from people of different walks of life.

How gratifying it is to know that we, as a nation, are ready to help our affected sisters and brothers instantly. Many organizations and offices have even donated their budgets for their Christmas parties to help the survivors, for they believe that the true meaning of Christmas is giving love to our sisters and brethren!

It is my fervent hope that we as Filipinos will continue to stand together and be united in helping each other, especially in times of calamities.

As of this moment, the survivors still need our help. They need water, food, clothing, and shelter. They need our support, so let us continue praying for them and responding to their needs. You can help by donating through UMCOR Philippines: UMCOR Advance #240235.

By Clinton Dy, an UMCOR Volunteer from PCU Soccer Team Varsity at Philippine Christian University.

Earlier this year, volunteers for UMCOR Philippines wade through Typhoon Negat flood waters to deliver relief supplies to affected families. Photo: UMCOR Philippines

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