In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, tens of thousands of Filipinos and resident foreigners volunteered in government and private relief supplies distribution centers around the country, packing emergency food and other goods into family-sized portions for distribution in the stricken Visayas region of the country.
For one group of volunteers, a day spent packing relief supplies for typhoon victims was a change of pace from their work volunteering to raise awareness of environmental problems. The International Citizen Service [ICS] Programme volunteers, nine Britons and nine Filipinos, were working as part of a larger team in a 12-week stint in the Carood Watershed in Bohol, as part of a program implemented by VSO Bahaginan, a member of the British-founded poverty-focused development federation VSO.
Greg, one of the British volunteers in the program, explained that the group had been working since October 1, 2013, promoting sustainable natural resource management and civic participation. “The main theme of our placement is ‘environmental education’, working with schools, with community leaders, with teachers, and out of school youth to raise awareness about the environmental problems in the areas in which we are working.”
Ryan, one of the Filipino volunteers, said the program’s Filipino participants were a mixture of young professionals and students (though the program is open to any young person between 18-25). “We are working with the same passion for environmental awareness and education, and for development,” he said.
Sen, a youth project supervisor, added that the VSO volunteer placements are designed to build on the work of previous volunteer teams that have served the community in Bohol since 2011.
In addition to the help provided by the organization’s Filipino and overseas volunteers in activities such as relief supplies packing, VSO is offering psycho-social counseling to typhoon-affected families and children. It has also distributed donated relief supplies and boats [bancas] to local partners in the affected areas. Beyond relief operations, VSO Bahaginan is developing projects to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of disaster-affected communities.
Roberto De Vido is a communications consultant who has lived and worked in Asia for 25 years. He is the editor of Aidpreneur.com and producer of the Terms of Reference podcast.