Tuesday, December 10, 2013
UMCOR–Philippines Distributes Relief Goods in Visayas
By Eduard M. Jocson*
After the devastating force of Super-Typhoon Yolanda (known outside the Philippines as Typhoon Haiyan) landed in the Visayas Region on November 8, 2013, staff and volunteers of the Philippines office of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR-Philippines) responded immediately to affected communities by distributing emergency relief goods. UMCOR’s mission is to alleviate human suffering, open hearts to all people and open minds to all religions.
Yolanda was considered the strongest typhoon in the world in 2013. The storm killed about 6,000 people, while 1,779 people remain missing. It caused damages to infrastructure and agriculture estimated at a cost of 809 million US dollars. On November 19-20, the United Methodist Committee on Relief first distributed about 1,500 emergency food packages to communities in and around Tacloban City. Then on November 26, UMCOR volunteers, including both a regular core group and new volunteers from churches and from Harris Memorial College, helped prepare another 1,500 packages of relief goods. These were distributed to communities in Ormoc City and Tacloban City on December 5 and 6. Each of these distributions takes at least a full week to complete, including travel time from the north to the Visayas Region in the central part of the country.
There are many nongovernmental organizations, both local and international, that are helping to alleviate the suffering of the Filipino people. But the relief goods are not enough to bring back their normal life. There also is much we need to learn from experiences like this one, especially how to deal with people in times of disaster. As the human suffering increases, poverty, violence, and man-made disaster also increase. We need to understand the people and learn from them, and also to teach them how to minimize their vulnerabilities.
“I am so thankful to God almighty that I am still alive after the Super-Typhoon Yolanda hit our community with such strong winds and also flooded us,” said Mr. Yulo Rosendal, a 59-year-old father who lived near the shore in Tacloban. He added that some of his family members died in the storm. He is a good carpenter, and thinks he may yet contribute to rebuilding the home of his pastor at the Light and Life Methodist Church in Tacloban City.
As an adage goes, “no man is an island.” In times of trouble or disaster, we cannot rely on ourselves alone. Other people will complete our wholeness as a human person. This reflects the real story of the Harris Memorial College student deaconesses who helped in the packing of relief goods. They volunteered for this work as their classes are not in session. They were accompanied by the Rev. Charles Jenkins Mendoza, chaplain, and me, both of Harris Memorial College. All of the student deaconesses felt inspired by God to volunteer themselves to package the goods as a way to help survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. They said that they are always willing to volunteer and help people in need.
Volunteerism the acts of serving people
Volunteerism is the process of opening our hearts, minds, and doors to reach out to others not only in times of trouble but whenever help is needed.
Philosopher Thomas Hobbes claimed that man is by nature belligerent, selfish, and egoistic. But for me, the spirit of working and helping together to reach out to survivors of Typhoon Yolanda shows more compassionate values. I personally was asked by our program director to volunteer with UMCOR, and I responded without hesitation. Perseverance and compassion are my tools to serve people in need. I helped pack the relief goods and was so excited about participating in the distribution. It was my first experience of volunteering in the far-flung communities, and it filled me with emotion.
*Eduard Jocson is a member of the staff of the Community Extension Services and Development Department at Harris Memorial College in the Philippines.