Friday, June 24, 2011

Strong typhoon devastates Romblon, the rest of the Philippines

Romblon was among the hardest hit provinces by typhoon “Frank.” The Signal 3 typhoon cut a wide swath of destruction affecting the entire Philippines. It entered the country’s so-called area of responsibility in Eastern Visayas and instead of turning north when it reached Bicol Region as predicted, it barrelled westwards hitting Western Visayas, Romblon and Mindoro before it swung north hitting the entire Luzon Island.

The typhoon also caused the sinking of the Philippines’ biggest ferry ship, Sulpicio Lines’ Princess of the Stars off San Fernando, Sibuyan Island in Romblon. More than 700 are feared dead.

In San Agustin, large waves battered the Carmen-Sugod-Long Beach road impeding motorized travel except motorcycles. Power lines toppled cutting off supply throughout the island.

At the height of the storm on Saturday night (June 28), Van Mark (Van Van) Elisan’s house was battered by the waves and was swept away. Fortunately, the rest of his family escaped injury or greater harm.

CERV had three volunteers in Romblon during the storm. Peter Barnett and Andrew Hudson were in San Agustin while Dennise Dunn was in Romblon Town, Romblon.

Paul Murray and Colin Lee-Chee arrived last Saturday from a short vacation in Hong Kong and were safely back in Manila before the worst of the typhoon devastated Metro Manila. New volunteer Leighton Wood spent Sunday, when Typhoon Frank was on top of Manila, at the CERV dorm. Kyle Engman was with his girlfriend in Antipolo City while mother-daughter Bette Luck and Jill Boike were at the Holiday Inn in Pasig City.

In CERV’s previous placement area of Iloilo, the entire province was hit by flash floods that killed dozens. Strong winds, torrential rains and flash floods also hit Dumangas. Barangay Tabucan was complete inundated, including Audy Detablan’s house.

As of this writing, families affected by typhoon Frank in Western Visayas Philippines continue to increase as partial and official report from the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) here disclosed 123,450 families or 612,775 individuals already displaced, 221 persons missing, 29 injured and 105 dead.

As of 2 a.m. Monday, June 27, the OCD report showed that 1,308 barangays have been affected by the typhoon and 44,708 families or 231,938 persons are staying in 284 evacuation centers all over the region. Moreover, 9,986 houses were totally destroyed, of which 20,687 partially damaged.

Five hundred thirty-three barangays were affected in Iloilo; Capiz came second with 473 barangays; Iloilo City, 113; Antique, 102; Negros Occidental, 60; Bacolod City and Guimaras at 12 barangays each and Aklan three barangays.
The highest number of death was also recorded in Iloilo province with 68, where 65 of whom are still unidentified followed by Iloilo City with 15; Antique, 12; Capiz, nine; Negros Occidental, one.

Reports of deaths and devastation continue to pour in from all over the country.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New program to impart the wonderful world of reading to Filipino kids; health program is temporarily shelved

CERV announces the creation of a new program and the dissolution of one if its original programs.

“We are pleased to announce the creation of our Children’s Reading Program as we are saddened that we have decided to shelve one of our original program offerings—the Health Program,” CERV co-founder and director Raymund Villanueva said.

CERV also announced the cessation of its Manila placement operations after one of its staff bid the organization goodbye due to health reasons. The Philippine program retains its popular School Building, Teaching and Environment programs in San Agustin, Romblon.  This picturesque and peaceful coastal town a hundred kilometres south of the Philippine capital Manila is CERV's project area.

Building a community library

CERV is currently building a two-storey structure at the site of its mangrove nursery in San Agustin, Romblon, slated to be completed in October this year.

“A library will be put up on the building’s ground floor where students from San Agustin schools may read, conduct research, and borrow books,” he said.

While there are about 15 or so primary and secondary schools plus a satellite college campus in San Agustin, there is no proper library in this town of  about 30,000 people.  Most of the schools have reading corners at best and the number of books available is inadequate.  CERV volunteers have repaired and enhanced existing library spaces but the lack of books is an overbearing problem that prevents most students from conducting proper research and start loving to read.  Research through the internet is a remote possibility as ownership of computers is limited to less than one percent of San Agustin residents and internet connection is woeful.

Volunteer Leighton Wood has donated $5,000 (Canadian) to jumpstart the construction and is in fact in the Philippines for the third time to spearhead the building himself.  Leighton saved up for nearly two years for the project.

Volunteer Richard Kastenschmidt and wife Renee of the United States has consistently donated funds to buy power tools to aid Leighton and the local builders in the construction.

Volunteer Dagmar Gaber sent two boxfuls of books from Germany that will serve as the initial batch of books that will be lent around.  Dagmar is a member of Book Crossings, an international book lovers club that “frees” books after they have been read by its original owners to be enjoyed by a greater number of people.

“Our funds are still insufficient at this point to finish the construction and we need more books to start coming in, especially reference books like encyclopaedia, in order for us to meet our self-imposed October opening date,” Raymund said.

CERV is appealing for more cash and book donations.

Reading Program

Raymund said they are excited about the reading program.

CERV said that Reading Program volunteers shall have their tasks cut out for them.  First, they would have to catalogue the books and arrange them according to subjects.  Then they would go around the schools to announce the library’s establishment and invite the students to visit, read, conduct research and borrow books.

Volunteers shall also be asked to establish reading clubs in these schools.  Among Day Care, Pre-School and Primary School students, volunteers will also be asked to conduct regular read-along sessions.

Since CERV now owns a small vehicle, the volunteers may later go around the schools to collect borrowed books and lend new ones to reading club members.

“Our objective is to introduce the wonderful world of books to the thousands of San Agustin students.  Children in developed countries take this privilege and pleasure for granted, but rural communities in the Philippines are not so blessed,” Raymund explained.

Reading club membership shall not be limited to students.  Out of school youths may be invited to join.

Introducing the joy and discipline of reading and conducting proper research will complement formal tutelage in classrooms, thereby enhancing the quality of education that are given the children of San Agustin.

Volunteers shall also assist the students conducting research at the library.

“There is an instant feedback mechanism in this kind of program.  The more borrowers and visitors to the library, and the more requests for read-along sessions, the better the volunteer is performing in this program,” Raymund said.

Temporary shelving of the Health Program

Which is the exact opposite of the Health Program.

“It is hard for us to assure a consistent volume work for our health volunteers as everything is largely dependent on the number of patients at a given time,” explained Raymund.

It is not that there are no sick people or ailments that need medical attention in San Agustin.  CERV does not have a clinic of its own and it can not afford to hire a supervising doctor (as required by Philippine laws), and buy medicines and equipment.

“If we can not guarantee consistent volume of work, then we are forced to consider our options,” CERV said.

But CERV will still accept health volunteers who would be bringing their own medicines and basic equipment.

“One possibility is for group of medical professionals or students to conduct focused medical missions—such as vaccinations, dental clinics, health education campaigns—provided that they bring the medicines and the equipment they need,” Raymund said.

The CERV building that is being constructed may also CERV as a community clinic, he added

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CERV spearheads successful humanitarian fundraising project

CERV-Philippines launched a successful relief project to help an Indigenous People’s community in Central Luzon, Philippines.  How it started can be read here.

 The response was quick and positive.  CERV decided to increase its target to three sacks of grain and at least two water pumps.

Canadian law student and National Union of People’s Lawyers volunteer Emily Misola Richards was first to pitch in.

Former CERV volunteer and Meaningful Volunteer founder Malcolm Trevena proposed a CERV-MV hook-up on this project.  CERV readily agreed, making it the first joint humanitarian fundraising project ever.  MV took care of two-thirds of the amount needed initially.

 GVN Foundation kindly agreed to make an emergency release of the funds it keeps for CERV health and children’s welfare projects to help in the project.

 Former CERV volunteers Richard Kastenschmidt and Andrew Roquiz of the USA and Leighton Wood (Canada) came through with cash donations.

 The project then had more money than it initially needed.

 CERV then asked Wilfredo Marbella, deputy secretary general of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, to look for the right kind of rice grains.  He delivered three sacks within three days.

 All that was needed at that point was to turn over the grains and the funds for the water pumps.  But, as mentioned in the first article, the area is militarized.  CERV waited for two weeks before it was able to make the delivery.  It needed the help of the KAMP, the Philippines’ biggest federation of Indigenous Peoples, who said that we should just surprise the military and arrive without announcing ourselves.

Following are some pictures of the actual handover.   Within three days of the handover, the first pump was already offering clean and potable water to the community.  (While CERV intends to go back to take pictures of the water pumps at work and the grains being planted, this has to be scrapped for now due to security reasons.)  The community is happy with the three sacks of grain as they were only expecting one.  They now await the next planting season even as they start clearing their traditional planting areas on mountainsides.

CERV director Raymund Villanueva also stumbled on a story while there.  Watch this video.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No swine flu cases in CERV placement areas; zero death in the Philippines

The Philippines now has nearly 200 cases of the global A(H1N1) swine influenza virus originally brought in by locals and foreigners who travelled from infected countries.  Thankfully, no death has yet been reported and the country’s health authorities say that all reported cases are of the very mild strain. Like with the avian flu virus, it is hoped that the Philippines would be spared from the worst of the pandemic.

 This is, of course, good news to incoming or prospective volunteers.

 CERV intends to help keep it that way.  As there is a growing concern that incoming volunteers, particularly those coming from swine flu-hit countries, might be infected, CERV is asking all of them to take flu vaccinations and boost their immunity systems by regularly taking multivitamins before flying over.

 This is the first time that CERV is asking this from future volunteers, and it is the only vaccination it recommends.  It also asks volunteers to always have bug-repelling lotions and sprays ready while in the country to protect themselves from insect-borne diseases.

 There has been no reported case of swine or avian flues in CERV’s placement areas of San Agustin, Romblon and Quezon City in Metro Manila.

“The things or events that happen in our life are not nearly as important as what we do with the time that is given to us.”

The following is an excerpt from CERV Volunteer Erik Johnson's blog.

First I wanted to let everyone know that each day I spend here is truly a blessing, and I am still (as I will always be) thankful to all those who helped me both financially and spiritually! Before I left my Mom told me “Not very many kids your age get a chance to do something like your doing. And if they do, it's usually only for a month or so!”

I had no idea that I would be doing something like this or going to a place like this. Not in a million years. I feel very honored and blessed to have had this opportunity. It may not have seemed like a smart decision to some of my friends or family members, and to be honest it wasn't a very smart decision, but it was the right one. I may not be financially stable and I may not have a complete education, but that doesn't change the fact that I've had an amazing experience. I know some people will say “It doesn't matter what your doing there, you need to think about your future.”.

I say “The things or events that happen in our life are not nearly as important as what we do with the time that is given to us.” God provided me with the perfect amount of time, with (almost) the perfect amount of money, and with the perfectly abundantly overflowing amount of prayer and support.

I do not doubt for one second that this trip was a mistake.

Okay, so for the last month and a half, I have been busy teaching computer class, painting signs, painting benches, and cleaning up the shoreline in front of the mangroves.

Computer Class:  Even though I never signed up for it, I really do enjoy teaching the kids about computers and how to use them. Yes computers can be bad when someone gets addicted to games or facebook, but they also have very useful applications, such as typing papers, creating documents, presentations, and as I know on a professional level (:)) they are great for expanding one's knowledge and joy they may get from producing, editing, and presenting Movies!

I'm finally having the kids complete a project for me, and go figure, for their first project I'm having them make me a movie/presentation. I recently took a week off to give the kids a break, and myself. During my “break” is when I tried coming up with a lesson plan. I have to give teachers credit, because I use to think being a teacher was one of the easiest jobs ever, but boy was I wrong.

Painting:   Just out in front of the building I teach in at Paaralang Elemntarya Ng Sugod (Sugod Elementary School) there are several benches. Paul and I both decided they could use some color, and now they are all finished. We painted a different flag on each of them, representing the different countries that the volunteers have come from, including; The U.S., The U.K., Norway, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Mangroves:  The Mangrove project is coming along very nicely. We have between 600 and 700 planted along the shore just north of Sugod, near a place called Baliw. The last few weeks though I haven't had any help, so planting has been put on hold for the time being, and when I do get a chance to visit, I mostly pick up garbage and clean the already planted mangroves. We still have several thousand to plant. Thankfully some of the community members have joined in to help us plant in other locations scattered along the whole bay.

In March, I am planning on reading up on proper techniques and teaching Mangrove Plantation and Care classes at the Elementary school in Sugod, and the High School and Elementary School in Long Beach. It is very important that the community knows exactly how to plant and watch over these trees, because without them they will lose more than just some pretty looking trees. Unfortunately the students do not currently have a class to teach them about how the trees contribute to their livelihood, or how to properly maintain a healthy mangrove sanctuary.

So that is what has been happening with the work side of my adventure. As for my off time there are several other stories to tell.

Read more on Erik’s blog.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It was a bit different this time.  After a great experience last time, the expectations were all high. However the law of averages always catches on with the group.  It was still quite good.  Raymund organized another great experience, some among us who saw it, grabbed it.  It was good for me and Laure who had all of Raymund's time.

The saplings that we nurtured last year, a few thousands of them were along the highway and for two days we supported some saplings where needed and watered them. The heat was the highest in Manila of the summer and we just landed from the cool of HK (and heard that part of HK island were at 5 degree centigrade while we were melting).  This time I confirmed it to my utter disbelief that I just cannot do hard work that I could a decade ago. So much for a comfortable lifestyle that is too disturbing for comfort of mind. Raymund took us away from the gruel for a day and we participated in the 100th year rally of Women's Day on 8th March and then a small trip of Old Manila city. It was a good detour!

However, my heart was completely at the tree nursery in Montalban, Rizal.  Raymund was kind enough to take us to do the usual work at the nursery for the next two days.  It was quite nostalgic to be back among the saplings. The hut looks all new and green, the nursery is full with saplings and looks quite green. The 'holes are fun' are still hold the supporting bamboos for the shade and I caught a beautiful spider with its net on my camera. And not to mention the wonderful tender coconuts. I had to open one for the nostalgia sake and to prove to myself that I can still do it. Makes me feel better! The hammock is shifted to a place in front of the hut and BTW I also bought one for me :-).

This time we had a trip to local market and it is a very interesting place. A good spot for many photographs. Lot of fruits and other things. It was fun.

Thanks to Pom and others who provided good food as usual. They tolerated us through our stay and rants. I had thought that I would shed some 'tyres' but it only inflated more. I cannot blame the heat though. I love to stay at this dorm. It is quite homely, always open and lot of space.

We also played cards but this time it was restricted to only two nights and never in the hall. People were too alert and the 'g-bows' or 'Hi Queen' never happened. Some even studied! :-(.

As usual Raymund does not stop inspiring and Laure is already planning next year's PW to Romblon for working with mangroves and painting classrooms and benches. That is the real success of going at 'CERV-Philippines' to Raymund.

What more can I ask from Raymund? He was helping me as usual.  This time in finding a place for the IFP conference in Manila. That may be the place for future conferences if not this year.

So, I'm now completely looking forward to go to Romblon next year. I can only wish that it was next week.

Donations to CERV Phillipines are more than welcome. Their immediate need is to buy a vehicle to carry water tanker.

Raymund is still buying lottery tickets so he can call you guys to paint his new house sometimes when he's lucky. We should do it as a group sometimes within the next 10 yrs! Hopefully it'll be earlier.
Magan Savant is a Physics teacher at Li Po Chun-United Word College in Hongkong, SAR.  He has led two student volunteer groups since last year.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

CERV ends 2009 successfully; has high hopes for 2010

TO ROUND UP the year, CERV-Philippines helped in the complete rehabilitation of Batibot Early Learning Center, a school completely submerged and destroyed during the Ondoy (Ketsana) calamity.

Volunteers Erik Johnson (USA) and Paul Olney (GB) worked hard in repainting the school’s educational blocks and help in the delivery of books, water purifier, electric fan and medicines.

 CERV also bought paints and painting supplies which the school’s parents used in repairing the destroyed structure.

 Batibot is located in the city of Marikina, one of the most devastated localities during Ondoy’s wrath. For more of the story go here.

 CERV also participated in delivering relief goods to 17 communities within Metro Manila and Northern Luzon, particularly in the cities of Quezon and Pasig, and the towns of San Mateo in Rizal Province, Guimba in Nueva Ecija and Bambang in Pangasinan.

 These relief operations were participated in by volunteers Yusuke Nakata (Japan) and  Shafaq Varghese (USA).

 Financial donations from the GVN Foundation of New Zealand and USA and former volunteers made these projects possible.  It also enabled CERV to implement repairs to the CERV offices and dormitory in Quezon City, which was damaged by the succession of destructive storms.  Part of the donation was also used to buy additional carpentry tools for CERV’s school building repair and maintenance program.

 Meanwhile, Global Volunteer Network  decided to continue its partnership with CERV—a decision that reversed its earlier plan to abrogate the partnership that was originally scheduled to end on August of 2010.

 “I am pleased to advise you that our management team have completed the review and are happy to continue with our partnership,” GVN founder and CEO Colin Salisbury said.

 GVN is the world’s biggest volunteering network with more than 11,500 volunteers deployed in six continents since 2002.

 The year 2009 proved to be another successful, albeit challenging, year for CERV.   There was a slight increase in the number of volunteers across all months of the year while CERV’s programs benefited from several improvements introduced through its collaboration with Meaningful Volunteer.

 CERV looks forward to the New Year with renewed hope, buoyed by recent successes in its response to the “Ketsana” and “Pempe” calamities.  Together with its current and future international volunteers it promises to help more Filipino communities and social service institutions in need of the world’s kindness.