Some thoughts on Balay Mindanaw Disaster Response

How do we respond appropriately to disasters that occur in places that are outside our areas of operations, considering the very limited human and material resources that we have?

This has been question that we faced and continue to face in the aftermath of the Pablo Disaster, the Zamboanga Violent Crisis and the floods that followed, and now the Visayas Earthquake.

In the Pablo Disaster, the areas hit were at least ten hours away by land travel from our base in Cagayan de Oro City. After conducting an on-the-ground asssessment two days after the typhoon, we initially sent volunteers and relief goods. However, the magnitude of the destruction only made us feel insignificant, useless and hopeless. Thus, we decided to do what we believed was the most realistic response within our very limited means – we decided to focus all our efforts to one barangay, Brgy. an-ao in Baganga, Davao Oriental. We also have to remind ourselves that we are not alone in doing this. There is so much goodwill around. Modesty aside, it has become a model in community-based disaster response.

In the Zamboanga crisis, we agonized over the same question once again. We ended up simply sending alkaline water that we ourselves bottled.

And now, we are again facing the same question in the aftermath of the devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the Visayas. Again, we turn to our tried and tested approach: be on the ground, know, understand and feel the real situation, connect to people and institutions, do not pretend to have all the answers, and hopefully design a most appropriate response based on needs and capacities.

With these reminders, our first field assessment team is preparing for take-off. With our partners who continue to accompany us in this journey, we hope to make some difference in the lives of the people and communities. Hopefully, they will also say: We refuse to be victims. We choose to be resources….

Kaloy Manlupig | 16 October 2013

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