Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Volunteers start Romblon relief operations and fund drive

Following is an excerpt of CERV volunteer Peter Barnett’s (New Zealand) narration of the relief operation he conducted in his last days in Romblon immediately after the devastation of Typhoon “Frank”.

“I hopped off the boat from Romblon Island. Unfortunately the damage here in Tablas Island is immeasurably worse.
“This morning I visited the crew of a fishing boat that washed up in the marine sanctuary where I've been working. Four are staying in the barangay (village) hall across the rice fields from my host family’s house, with the fifth lying in an open coffin in a room a few metres away. It was the first body I've seen and I found it far harder than I imagined. I can't imagine what it must be like for his family (who arrives this afternoon) or for those of the ferry (MV Princess of the Stars where more than 700 are feared drowned off Sibuyan Island, Romblon) casualties.
“The coastal areas of San Agustin have been flattened. So many houses were blown away, as well as huge numbers of boats destroyed.
“It's been an incredible experience walking around today, the tropical paradise that had become home reduced to strewn rubble. The scale of the destruction is completely overwhelming. People are constructing shelters from rubble, or sleeping in the public stages by the basketball courts or in schools.
“Aid from the government will be slow to come, consisting of a one-off 2 kg of rice per family…
“The father of my host family is a member of the Romblon Red Cross, a respected high school teacher and a very decent and trustworthy man. I spoke to him this morning about the possibility of my raising relief money overseas and how it would be best distributed. He said that he and his wife would be able to distribute it among those most in need in our barangay and the one neighbouring it. I didn't raise any expectation, but I wondered whether my parents and family friends would like to donate some money. The exchange rate is such that any amount in $NZD goes a very long way, and the lack of any official or NGO help here means that anything would go immediately to helping out in a very real way – food, drinking water, shelters.
“’My father my emails on to other families who helped also, and I emailed them back to say that I managed to withdraw the money yesterday in Romblon. My host family
were amazingly coordinating the whole effort - 450 kg of rice, 300 cans of sardines, 900 packets of noodles, 75 kilograms of nails, 100 bars of soap! Also enough left over to help a couple of families in particular need - PhP 1000 towards a coffin for a family that lost their father and PhP500 for medicine for a man with blood poisoning after being hit by rusty roofing iron. It was an incredible gift from them and the Hennin family. And it was a real privilege for me to oversee its distribution. It is hard to put into words how far it went and how much it meant to the people here!’
“To which I got the following reply from my father John, who is a fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund:
‘How rewarding it was for us to read of the amounts of rice, noodles and more that the money purchased. Thank you for setting it out so well for us to read.
“’As a fundraiser, it's the most extraordinary donor feedback, a closing of the loop, that I have ever seen, much less been a part of. Despite our trust in NGOs, there is an unfortunate and unavoidable element of uncertainty about how much gets to the need and about precisely what any individual's contribution to a pooled fund resulted in.
“’I think that is a point worth pushing - the current need is so great, and the help CERV (through donations) can offer is so practical, targeted and hopefully rapidly delivered, that through their donations ex-volunteers can do an incredible amount. Having so many volunteers 'on the ground' is also a huge advantage
“’As regards the website proposal below, I think something of that nature has appeal because volunteers can send the link to their family and friends, who have no doubt heard a lot about their time in the Philippines. I'm not sure how the pricing structures and establishment fees of PayPal, etc. compare, they would have the advantage of being based from CERV's website and increasing your branding efforts, though of course that could be integrated into a third party site also…Would be good to get it set up while the sense of urgency is still fresh.’
“Then my dad emailed friends from Fundraise Online, Limited to ask if it would be a possible for them to remit money direct to CERV if he pays the FOL charity registration fee and put a page up.
“FOL support manager Sharon Lee said their group ‘would be happy to remit direct to the Philippines if the abovementioned requisites are accomplished. She also raised he possibility of setting it up on the New Zealand and Australia sites of FundRaise Online.
”Now, I have left the Philippines but have committed to help with my family and friends.”
In Manila, Peter and the other volunteers helped in the relief operations of Sagip Kapamilya of ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest media network. Leighton Wood, Colin Lee-Chee, Denise Dunn, Jill Boike, Bette Luck, Robin Greenway, Kyle Engman and Line Pedersen packed rice, other food items, medicines, clothing for victims of Typhoon Frank in Metro Manila and Western Visayas. Their operations lasted for one and a half-weeks and have processed millions of pesos worth of relief goods. Leighton worked the longest, followed by Colin.
Before Peter flew home, he donated an additional PhP6,500 for relief food items for San Agustin. Robin added 200 Canadian dollars, which she raised before flying to the Philippines. Canadian health volunteers Sharon Gershony, Edward Brooks, Rachel Han and Juliya Iosfina donated 100 Canadian dollars each for medicines.
The CERV secretariat and some former volunteers like Malcolm Trevena are hard at work setting up the online petition for FundRaise Online.
We are calling on all former volunteers and others for help. Succeeding updates and news items to follow

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