The Council of Presidents in Negros Occidental led the relief distribution for affected families during the New Year flooding in Northern Negros this year.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, barrelled through the Philippines, leaving a trail of devastation and lifeless bodies in its wake, particularly in Eastern Visayas.
Locally known as Yolanda, it was one of the deadliest storm that hit the country. People who survived wondered whether recovery was possible as they were left with nothing, except the clothes on their backs.
Response from all over the world was overwhelming and we saw the Filipinos unite to extend help in whatever way they can.
Mark Ortiz, the district governor at that time, was based in Roxas City which was among the areas that experienced the destruction of Haiyan.
Seeing that the leadership needs help, other district leaders sprang into action and the district’s Disaster Response Team was born. It was led by Past District Governor Edgar Sy, along with then, District Governor Elect Jude Doctora and Past President Christine Toledo of the Rotary Club of Bacolod West.
With a seed money of P250,000, the convenors consulted all clubs to take part in the program. Most clubs were already doing their own initiatives as well, but seeing how a concerted effort can actually result to a bigger impact, the clubs mobilized.
In just four months, the district disaster fund grew and reached P1.6 million. The team assessed areas in Western Visayas that was overlooked by the international community, as much focus was given to badly-hit Leyte and Samar, and chose the island-barangay of Loguingot, Estancia in the province of Iloilo as the first beneficiary of a grand scale rehabilitation, given the district’s resources.
Loguingot has less than a thousand population and the community is mostly dependent on fishing as their source of livelihood. When Haiyan left, there was not a single banca left in the island.
The needs were addressed in phases. First were the basic needs and health conditions through relief distribution and a Medical-Dental Mission. Second phase addressed their mental well-being, especially the children. A day of fun, distribution of toys, arts and crafts and games, brought smiles on the children’s faces.
The third phase was the sustainability part. Teach them how to fish again, is to teach them to live again - was what the team did as 34 motorized pump boats, equipped with fishing implements were turned over to the community. But it was more than providing them livelihood opportunities again. It was bringing dignity back into their lives.
The last phase were structural repairs as they reconstructed the island’s health center, repaired the school buildings and built two new classrooms.
“Because we simply care.” That was the mantra of the entire district then and everyone contributed, from resources to volunteering their skills in architecture, construction and recovery efforts.
Today, the disaster response has been integrated as a major program in the district and all Rotarians contribute to the fund annually. Since Haiyan, D3850 has responded to various calamities including assistance to other Rotary districts in Luzon that were affected by typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses last year and the flooding in Negros Occidental.
John Rockefeller said, “I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.” D3850 just institutionalized that, looking at disasters as opportunities to serve better.
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