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Concrete help

Publication Date : 22-12-2013


It’s a small yet weighty activity that builds on the next stage in the continuing effort to assist the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” get back on their feet.

Its progenitor is the gift of “Oplan Hatid,” a unique relief activity organised to transport those fleeing the devastated areas to the homes of their friends or relations in Metro Manila and provinces (near and far) in Luzon. Launched last November 15, or a week after Yolanda struck, Oplan Hatid has a mission that would seem almost mundane—until one realises that its volunteers are meeting an urgent need.

Yolanda left so many families homeless and hopeless; in the initial days they had besieged the C-130 mercy flights to be able to get a ride out of the seemingly doomed landscape. Organisers led by James Deakin and Junep Ocampo realised that these survivors were landing at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City with no way to get to wherever they planned to go. Oplan Hatid assisted them—and still continues to do so—in their first tentative steps to begin anew.

The organisers sounded a call through social media and soon, over 2,000 volunteers arrived with their own vehicles to ferry the survivors to various destinations. The volunteers not only provided transportation, they also provided a friendly presence for the desolate and displaced. (In the end, 23-year-old Cecilia Ejercito wrote in “A literal relief drive” for Young Blood, everyone was “made stronger—drivers, dispatchers, organisers, marshals, counselors, survivors.”)

Now the time has come for another activity, and it is likewise a gift. Oplan Hatid leaders have put up “Oplan Trabaho,” a job fair for Yolanda survivors that started last December 15.

"Yolanda destroyed not only houses and lives. It also destroyed some people’s faith in themselves. Let us help these people rebuild their lives. Let us help them start over by giving them jobs before Christmas,” the Oplan Trabaho team announced on Facebook.

As though in a well-oiled operation, the survivors were provided with free transportation from various points in Metro Manila to Rizal Park, where some 500 employers—both companies and individuals—waited to assess and hire them. “This is a give-and-take opportunity for us—the employers and the applicants,” said Paul Tamayo, who had come to hire two household helpers.

“They will be able to help us with their manpower and we, in return, can financially help them by giving them decent jobs.”

By the time Oplan Trabaho ended on that day, Inquirer reporter Maricar B. Brizuela wrote, 721 applicants had been hired and an additional 384 shortlisted. (Twenty survivors were also granted scholarships by Informatics Philippines.)

Oplan Trabaho is doubly significant because it not only provides gainful employment to those who badly need it but also represents the long game as far as rebuilding Eastern Visayas is concerned. Inspiration can certainly be gained from private initiatives like it, the idea being to provide livelihood to the uprooted people, to wean them off the dole, and assist them in concrete ways to regain their independence and dignity. That’s true rebuilding, real recovery.

And the people behind these two noteworthy endeavors persevere in their work without fanfare or recognition—but with the satisfying reward of a spirit of solidarity. They have grown to become a large, generous family, if we go by the words of Jaworski Garcia, team leader for transport: “All of us volunteers barely knew each other before the typhoon happened, but because we shared a common goal to help those devastated by [Yolanda], now we feel like we’ve known each other for a very long time.”

According to Ocampo, there are others out there who are “able and willing to help” but “need leaders they can trust.” He waxes eloquent in social media: “Trust is the foundation of these projects—the legs that made this Oplan series stand. Passion is the wings that made it fly.”

Encouragement, admiration, and gratitude should go to these tireless volunteers who continue to do what they can for those dealt a heavy blow and still reeling from it. This is real giving. Their efforts are a concrete help to the survivors of Yolanda, a meaningful gift in a time of great need.


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