By BONG D. FABE
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—“We refuse to be victims; we choose to be resources!”
With its trademark “fire in the belly” kind of work in an effort to be an agent of change in the communities and lives it touches, and drawing from its rich experiences in disaster aid work, the Balay Mindanaw Group of NGOs (BMG) recently equipped its staff with knowledge and skills needed to be effective disaster aid workers and volunteers through an intensive five-day training-workshop.
Designed to make BMG’s disaster response (DR) work more effective, especially in using meagre resources for the greater good of disaster survivors, the training workshop was conducted at the International Center for Peace in Mindanaw (IC Peace in Mindanaw) by the Disaster Aid International (DAI), a unit of the Rotary Club specifically established to aid communities hit by all kinds of disasters all over the world, and generously funded by the Johanniter International Assistance.
It was a part of BMG’s DR program, the Disaster Risk Reduction, Resiliency and Emergency Assistance Mission (DREAM) program, which was established after Tropical Storm Washi (Sendong) devastated the city on December 16, 2011.
“Our DR work is a clear reflection of our humanity as it shows that we are an organization with a heart,” said Rochelle “Bibing” Mordeno, executive director of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI).
Despite all the risks and with very limited resources, BMG’s DREAM program has successfully and effectively aided the village of Ban-ao in the municipality of Baganga in Davao Oriental get back on its feet after SuperTyphoon Bopha (Pablo) flattened the province and neighboring Compostela on December 4, 2012.
“Risk is part of disaster relief work since disaster pushes everyone to the limit,” stressed veteran DR expert Ed Cox.
Cox, DAI’s resident Deployment and Training Manager/Director, was the only foreigner who stayed in Ban-ao for months leading BMG’s team of DR volunteers help the devastated community recover from the impacts and effects of Pablo.
Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig, BMFI founder and president, credited Cox for “making BMG embrace disaster response seriously.”
DAI Australia’s Darren Mayne, who leads the organization’s Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) and former DAI director and secretary, urged BMG to do a “balancing act” in choosingDR workers for field work.
“Different persons bring different personalities on the table. Your job is to see who among them work together well so that when they are in the field, your DR work will go smoothly. This requires a balancing act,” he said.
Critical to an effective DR work, both Cox and Mayne stressed, is great planning — from pre-deployment to vehicle/driver assignment to hibernation/evacuation of the DR team from the community.
Using the recent Balochistan, Pakistan earthquake, training-workshop participants simulated the pre-deployment to hibernation of DR workers/volunteers with emphasis on the core principles of disaster aid/humanitarian work: (1) right to life with dignity; (2) right to receive humanitarian assistance; and (3) right to protection and security as outlined in The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response — one of the most widely- known and internationally-recognized sets of common principles and universal minimum standards in life-saving areas of humanitarian/disaster response.
Since “disaster pushes everyone to the limit,” DR volunteers/workers/organizations should always emphasize security and safety. Thus, there should always be plans on pre-deployment, on arrival, during deployment, and post deployment. This is to minimize the risks, they said.
The DREAM program is an integral part of BMG’s vision/mission of “Helping Build Empowered Sustainable Communities, Helping Build Peace in Mindanaw” by pursuing Kaangayan, Kalambuan, Kalinaw sa Mindanaw, sa Pilipinas, sa Kalibutan (Equality, Development, Peace for Mindanao, for the Philippines and for the World).
And it has become more pronounced since the Philippines is a climate change hotspot and is listed by the World Bank, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED),US Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), among others, as one of the Top 10 countries of the world that have suffered, and will continue to suffer the most, from natural disasters. (Bong D. Fabe)