[Shout-out to my kasama Theresa for writing this…]
The images of the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan are heart wrenching. They are the gaping wounds of a Philippines that has been beaten again and again by natural and not-so-natural disasters. This time the world cannot turn away. It cannot deny the suffering of the Filipino people. We are moved and compelled to open our hearts and give, but time and time again we are faced with the dilemma of which organizations or groups to support.
For me, the answer to that question is clear. I will not give my money to giant NGOs with huge overhead costs, other foreign organizations, or militaries that swoop in on these communities for a week or a month or two and then leave. When I look at images on my computer screen or my television, my eyes focus and linger on the faces of people who are hungry, homeless, and hurt because of these calamities. I do not see the faces of transnational organizations or their CEOs.
My heart is with the people. I would like my money to go there aswell. This is why I will give my time, energy, and financial support to organizations like NAFCON (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns) in the US that donates to BALSA (Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan- Peoples Cooperation for the People) in the Philippines. These relief efforts are led and conducted by all volunteer grass roots and community organizations–organizations that are committed not only to the immediate needsof the people for relief, but the much more difficult task of rebuilding,rehabilitating, and restoring these communities with dignity and compassion. These are peoples organizations thatare built by the people in the communities in which they live. They know the conditions, the struggles, and the aspirations of people in these communities because they are therewith them.
Participating in the International Solidarity Mission in Mindanao this summer, I was surprised to see so many people in communities devastated by Typhoon Pablo still living in tents or crumblingstructures with only a piece of tarpaulin to protect them from the elementseight months after the typhoon. It was shocking to see these tents and piecesof tarp emblazoned with the names of international relief organizations likethe Red Cross and UNICEF. It washard to accept that with the millions of dollars donated by people all over theworld, that these organizations along with many other transnational NGOs wereonly able to erect tent cities and distribute plastic coverings for homes andcalled it “relief.” They are no longer there in these communities. They have wiped their hands clean. They believe they have done their jobs. Hand in hand with the broken-ness of the Philippine government’s ability to respond to the needs of the people, these organizations failed to serve the people ofthe Philippines.
Thankfully, I was able to witness peoples organizations in action. I saw their rebuilding efforts in parts of Mindanao devastated by Typhoon Pablo.Their efforts were conducted quietly and humbly; they were ongoing eight months after the disaster. They were there for the long haul. One afternoon I was able to visit an evacuation center where people sought shelter because of militarization of their villages. The center was buzzing with activity as volunteers from peoples organizations were hard at work. I did not have to stay long to see the comprehensiveness of their work–from the cooking crew to the medical team to the psychosocial team for the children. The volunteers were tireless in their efforts to not only meet the immediate needs of the people,but to also find a way for them to return to their homes and live their lives peacefully once again.
These peoples organizations know that every child, woman, and man deserves to be fed, housed, and given medical care as soon as possible. But the difference is that they also know that the relief work only feeds, houses, and treats a person for that day or a few weeks. Their work cannot and will not stop there. They work for rehabilitation and rebuilding of communities. They will take a hammer and nails and wood to create new homes, hospitals, and schools, but they will also work at building a better system–one that responds to the needs of the people, one that fights for environmental justice, one that brings hope and courage for people to fight for what they need and deserve in the face of injustice.
Our people deserve more than pieces of tarp emblazoned with the names of international relief organizations or tent cities that are supposed to replace sturdy, livable homes. They deserve more than spoiled rice after it was withheld from them by the Philippine military. They deserve more than empty promises and poor governance.
And you–people from all over the globe with big hearts who donated for a whatever reason–maybe you have family members in Tacloban or you simply turned on the television and were moved by the images you saw, you deserve more than that, too. You deserve to know that the support you offer will be delivered to the people you so care for. You deserve to know that you have not only given someone a chance to fill their bellies with a healthy meal and sleep under a roof, but in supporting peoples organizations, you have also given people a chance to participate in the (re)building of a better, brighter community and world and the hope that they may thrive again.
Donate to support Typhoon Haiyan victims at http://nafconusa.org and support peoples organizations working for typhoon relief!
Written by Theresa De Leon Jaranilla