As a person who grew up in a place where earthquakes and typhoons were fiction, I had never imagined that Palawan would experience the kind of devastation and misery bought by Typhoon Odette.
As part of LifeCare Community Services Foundation, the social arm of LifeChurch that has been operating for 18 years, I became one of the first responders after the typhoon, distributing relief goods to people in nearby communities. This also paved the way for the Chairman of LifeCare, Ps. Ancho Buenaventura to form a program under the foundation called Life Relief and Development Services or LifeRADS to help the affected families of Palawan.
My experience with humanitarian response was limited to participating in smaller, less complex operations. However, our chairman and the whole team showed faith in my abilities to manage the LifeRADS team to implement the response. Though I was inexperienced, I felt that it was my responsibility to help those that were affected by the typhoon.
As my team and I visited the barangays and met with survivors, we talked about the loss of homes, the increased hunger, and even a sense of abandonment, but we were also uplifted by stories of leadership and community as people worked together to cope with the impact. Though our resources were limited, the stories of both desperation and hope drove the team to do the best that we could do.
A pivotal event for us took place on February 17, 2022, when we were invited to a humanitarian response training funded by UN OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). It was encouraging to see the different organizations in Palawan that had the heart to help our kababayans (countrymen). This training gave me an understanding of the significance of what we are doing in the province. We learned the importance of data gathering, consolidation, and analysis of data. We documented everything. I became more confident in making decisions for the team and for the affected families. My team connections made connections with people and organizations that would help us serve the communities better. We were able to partner with A Single Drop for Safe Water in providing water pumps in three rural barangays.
As a local humanitarian, I know I have a long way to go, but collaborative learning, as well as learnings from my mistakes, will help me do better and faster in the future. Typhoon Odette has provided me with a platform to learn and lead. The disaster gave LifeRADS an opportunity to serve the affected families and discover new skills and approaches to upgrade our way of community organizing and development.
Part of our learning from the humanitarian response training is preparedness. That is why our team put the right persons in charge of our volunteer pool, resource mobilization, and capacity building. A storage room, as well as relief goods, has also been prepared in case another disaster comes. The manual of operations and policies is also on the table. A list of recommended partner organizations for future projects is also in discussion. We learned that it is good to have a heart, but a heart combined with the right knowledge in humanitarian response is far better.
Article slightly edited for clarity.
A Single Drop for Safe Water Inc. and Roots of Health, as members of the Humanitarian Response Consortium, launched a large-scale response in Palawan on December 18, 2021. UN OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) provided an emergency cash grant to showcase the localization of humanitarian leadership which supported government agencies, local CSOs (civil society organizations), and vulnerable households. Read the full report here.