Flashback: Financial Literacy Training for the Women of Daanbantayan

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Together with the Olof Palme International Center, the Active Citizenship Foundation and the Akbayanihan Volunteer Group held a Financial Literacy Seminar for Women last June 17, 2014 in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

Women in disaster areas are faced with multiple burdens. Aside from the task of rehabilitating their lives and their homes, at the same time usually playing the role of a psycho-social therapist for the members of the family, they also take charge of budgeting the family income. With Akbayanihan facilitating some livelihood projects with the fisherfolk families in the area, it is just proper that they are likewise equipped with the skills to effectively handle finances.

Mr. Mark Pardico, a financial literacy advocate and lecturer from the World Financial Marketing Alliance, presented several budgeting schemes to the 50 plus women who attended the seminar. The workshops were filled with exercises that highlighted real-life and local experiences.

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The goal of the entire seminar was to equip the women-beneficiaries with necessary skills towards preparing for emergencies, disasters and untoward incidents that usually place marginalized and indigent families in peril.

Much is still to be done in Daanbantayan, Cebu, especially for its women. But with one skills-training to another, slowly, we are staying true to the promise of being their partners in rehabilitation.

ACF believes that by empowering women, we empower communities.

ACF joins Rappler’s PH+Social Good Summit Manila: #2030Now

About a year ago, the aftermath of Super typhoon Yolanda brought to light a plethora of inadequacies in the country’s disaster risk reduction schemes.  It is also during this juncture wherein potentialities such as using social media platforms as avenues for collaboration before, during, and after natural disasters became more beneficial and therefore appreciated.

Last September, 16, 2014, Rappler, a social media network whose primary thrust is to foster community engagement using digital platforms convened humanitarian workers, community organizers, local government leaders, media practitioners and concerned citizens.  In the conference entitled PH+ Social Good Summit #2030Now, experts from different fields thrashed out the various dimensions of a disaster.  Four representatives from Akbayanihan and Active Citizenship Foundation participated in this event.  The summit’s hashtag (#2030Now) captures the spirit of the entire project.  The idea is that collaborative envisioning for new strategies for disaster risk reduction management as well as for mitigating climate change is the key towards a culture of safety and resilience.

At the center of the conversation during the summit is journalism as a developmental tool.  Crowd-sourcing, for instance, as a bourgeoning trend in investigative journalism, has been instrumental in rescue and relief efforts during the past natural disasters.  Rappler highlighted Project Agos, a media platform that “combines top down government action and bottom up civic engagement to help communities deal with climate change adaption and disaster risk reduction”.  As journalism continues to go to the direction of cooperation with the public, the Executive Director of Global Center for Journalism and Democracy Kelli Arena says, it should help build capacities among its consumers.

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Realizing that journalists serve as a vital link between state and civil society, Kris Van Ordsel, New York’s Director of Infrastructure and Local Government Program for Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery talks about the politics of natural disaster recovery.  He discussed the basic elements of planning and executing disaster risk reduction management schemes under the context of government institutions in the United States.  Sec. Lucille Sering, Vice Chairperson of the Climate Change Commission drove the issue home by talking about the Philippine government’s initiatives in mitigating climate change.  She synthesizes by saying that there is indeed a noticeable increase in willingness to augment climate action but commitment in terms of subsidy remains low.  Sec. Sering adds that the country should start showing some leadership globally in these climate change mitigation initiatives.  Asec. Jose Sixto “Dingdong” Dantes adjoins the National Youth Commission’s call to integrate the youth in disaster risk reduction programs and strategies.

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What can be taken home from this summit is that we should all be taking advantage of the increased connectivities and start taking an active role in mitigating our own vulnerabilities.  ACF sees this summit as an important step in creating a culture of safety and resilience because participants were able to have a glimpse at what other sectors have been doing in their fields of involvement.  At the end of the day, what will count is how these kinds of initiatives can jump-start a community of leaders from various sectors who are willing to collaborate in planning and moving for a safer living space for all.

 

 

Maribi School: Now on its final stages of construction

Never has the term “delayed gratification” been more applicable to any project than it is to the ongoing construction of the Malaya-Tala School in Maribi, Tanauan, Leyte.

Funded by money raised by the David sisters — Malaya and Tala — through the sale of “Haiyan Bracelets” that they made themselves and via other fund-raising activities, the Maribi School comprises four (4) rooms, one being an open learning area, and two (2) toilets. But what sets this particular school building apart from the dozens currently under construction in the “Yolanda Belt” is that this school has been expressly designed to become “Yolanda Resistant.”

For one, its roof design is rated to survive 200+kph winds. The entire building is also built elevated from the ground, to allow flood waters to pass beneath the structure instead of slamming against it. Particular attention was also given by the architects to the building’s alignment vis-a-vis the Sun to maximize natural lighting. Normal wind flow in the area was also factored in.

Details such as these make constructing the Maribi School take a bit longer than what is normal. So much so that school had already re-started three months ago and, yet, the Maribi School is still not finished.

But quality construction takes time. And if there’s something that the Principal, Teachers, Students and Parents don’t want their new school to be, its to be “built in the usual, way.” They have already seen so many buildings built in the “normal way” destroyed by Yolanda to accept more of the same. Not for Maribi.

In any case, judging from these latest photos from the site, they have only a few more weeks worth of waiting left before they finally get to enjoy Malaya’s and Tala’s wonderful gift to the children of Maribi. :-)

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Akbay-Aral in Tolosa: Lessons from a yellow school building

By: Justine Balane

When the Akbayanihan Akbay-Aral volunteer team went to the Daniel Z. Romualdez Memorial Elementary School in Tolosa town in Leyte (one of the hardest hit towns in Eastern Visayas during the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda), we were greeted with the sight of a huge yellow-painted two-storey classroom building.

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The building was one of many casualties during the typhoon in November. I said to myself that it’s impossible for the kids to learn anything under this condition. The top floor was dilapidated; all that’s left standing were wooden posts, steel bars and debris. When it rained hard that morning, all the water flowed through the cracks and holes down to the bottom floor where more than 10 classes were sharing the little space. Some teachers and students had to make do with conducting classes in the lobby along with other sections because some classrooms were beyond repair.

My job that morning was to get the class lists for every grade level to make sure that every kid receives a backpack, pencils, notebooks and other things needed for school. I was to check the names of kids who were present that morning and mark those who were absent so the school can give them their bag and supplies when they come back.

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The school’s Officer-in-Charge Mr. Norman Alcala volunteered to walk with me to the classrooms so we can both collect the class lists from the teachers. He walked me to the white tent/makeshift classroom packed with almost one hundred children and two teachers. “These are already two classes,” Mr. Alcala told me. “They have to share one tent because our tents are few.”

Mr. Alcala said that when the sun is high, the tent can get really hot. There were no electric fans in sight. One teacher was sitting on the table, fanning herself with one hand, the other clutching a cold water bottle to her forehead. She had already listed the activities of the day on the blackboard but the heat was already unbearable — and it was only 9 in the morning. She had to cool herself down with her paper fan before she could start teaching her class about fractions.

After we completed the class lists, Mr. Alcala showed me where the other classrooms used to be. “That white building on the left—,” he said, pointing to a white-painted mound of debris. “That was our library.” When I asked him if they were able to save a few books, he shook his head.

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We went back to the yellow-painted classroom building where Mr. Gerald Paragas, an urban planner and TV journalist, was teaching a group of kids how to prepare themselves for the next storm. The kids were having fun with volunteers from University of the Philippines-Tacloban acting out scenarios of a house fire, a strong storm and other disasters.

I was busy watching the Disaster Risk Reduction training for kids when a little girl tugged at my shirt. She was about 10 years old, just 4 feet tall but when she asked me if her name was on my list, she had the confidence of someone taller and older.

Her name is Angelica. When I looked through the list and found her name, we became instant friends. She sat down with me and began to talk about her best friends Pearl and Ara and how she loves studying HEKASI (Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Sibika) and doing the “Hokey-Pokey.”

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When it was time to distribute the bags, she lined up excitedly and ran back to me when she received her gifts from us. Asked what she planed to do with her new bag, her face brightened up and a wide smile formed from her little lips. “I already have a bag for school,” she said. “This one is for my brother.”

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As a volunteer, I like to think that we taught these kids an important lesson about giving. But here’s Angelica, 10 years old, whose love for her brother taught me more than I knew about sharing what we have for those who have none.

Volunteering for the Akbay-Aral School Caravan made me realize the value of bayanihan in times of need. Instead of just providing relief goods for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, Akbayanihan taught me that help should extend until they are able to get back on their feet. The caravan helped children return to school by giving them bags and notebooks but it also empowered them by teaching the kids how to prepare for disaster on their own.

The situation in Leyte is proof that repair and rehabilitation in Eastern Visayas still has a long way to go to return everything to normal. It’s imperative for ordinary people like me to step up to the challenge and give sustainable change to comfort the afflicted.

The huge dilapidated yellow-painted two-storey classroom building might be unfit as a learning environment but it was there where a 10 year old girl taught me the real meaning of sharing. ###

justine balane - author Justine Balane is a student from the University of the Philippines-Cebu and was one of the Akbayanihan volunteers during the School Caravan in Leyte held last June 16-18, 2014. 

Rakrakan for a (very) Good Cause!

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The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) will be holding a special staging of Rak of Aegis, a musical that highlights the Filipino Spirit’s resiliency amid disasters and features celebrated songs of the band Aegis. The funds raised through this special showing will go towards the Daycare Centers being constructed by the Akbayanihan Foundation in the Yolanda-ravaged areas. Contact (0917-845-0408) for tickets.

Tanauan Rehab Updates: MTF’s Maribi School now under construction

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June 5, 2014: The construction crew begins building their temporary barracks made of coco lumber, which they will occupy throughout the construction period. Other skilled workers begin forming the steel bars into columns and bed bars. Behind the workers is the totally destroyed Millennium School Building, which will be replaced by The Malaya and Tala School Building. The previous school building was built during the Ramos administration in 2000 and renovated by Jollibee in 2007. Although it is by far the newest built school building at Maribi Elementary School, it is the only building to be deemed “totally destroyed”.The sign on the left of the first photo reads: “On this site will rise the one-unit, four-classroom Malaya and Tala School Building presented by The Malaya and Tala Fund and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).”

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June 6-10: After fabricating the tie-beams and excavating the footings of the school building, the columns were finally ready to receive the concrete mixture to create the foundation.

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June 13-14: Workers in the first photo are manually preparing the concrete mix (cement, gravel and sand). According to Engineer Eusebio Culas of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) — 2nd photo — manually mixing is less accurate than using a mixer machine. The mixer on site was not working because of a missing screw piece. Less accurate measurements and manual mixing can lead to compromised structural strength, thus we immediately stopped the manual mixing. The foreman only allowed workers to continue once the mixer was fixed, the next day.

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June 20: Excessive rains in Week 2 of the project flooded the construction site, causing workers to stop work to manually scoop out the rainwater from the excavations. Not having a water pump on site delayed construction, as a water pump would have immediately removed the water from the excavations without requiring significant manpower. Still, it will take more than torrential rains to stop this project from moving forward!

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As of June 30: The basic framework of the Maribi School has already been set-up. Next comes the pouring of the concrete for the flooring and columns. In a few weeks time, these structures will be transformed into the 4 classrooms envisioned by Malaya and Tala, the two sisters behind the dream.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Miss Earth joins Akbayanihan’s Disaster Management Education for Young People

Last July 5, 2014, the beautiful ladies of Miss Earth-Philippines joined the Akbayanihan Volunteer Group in paving the way for campaigning among young people of the importance of personal safety and disaster preparedness.

The Akbayanihan Volunteer Group, in partnership with the Philippine Mt. Everest Team’s Dr. Ted Esguerra, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) of Quezon City and the Wilderness Search and Rescue Team (WISAR), trained the title-holders and members of Miss Earth-Philippines, ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bantay Kalikasan, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, Akbayan Youth and Y-PEER Pilipinas at the La Mesa Eco-Park in Quezon City.

The training included drills on fire safety, emergency kits, first aid, and emergency warning systems among others.

The training launches the campus tour of Miss Earth and Akbayanihan in several colleges and universities where they will be talking to young people about the “culture of safety”. The project is in partnership with the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines.

[ALL Photo Credits go to Dr. Ted Esguerra]

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CBDRRM Training with Miss Earth Philippines

Last June 6 and 7, the Active Citizenship Foundation (ACF), together with the Akbayanihan Relief and Rehab Group, organized a two-day Training-Seminar on Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CBDRRM) for local Relief and Rehab organizers, youth representatives of the Akbay-Aral School Caravan Project, and several delegates from the Miss Earth Philippines Foundation, who will be doing school tours in the Yolanda-devastated areas of the Visayas in the coming weeks.

ACF DRRM Training (Phaltra)

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The featured speaker during the Training-Seminar was Mr. Toni Binalla of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), who discussed the following topics:

  • BDC (Barangay Development Councils) and BDRRMC (Barangay DRRM Councils), in particular the role of National and Local Governments in Disaster Risk Reduction and Response and the good practices of functional BDRRMCs;
  • Disaster Preparedness, specifically the setting up a Community-based Early Warning System and some basic tips on Evacuation & Evacuation Center Management;
  • Emergency Response, focusing on Post Disaster Needs Assessment and some basic tips on Organizing Relief Delivery Operation.

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Workshops were also done on making an Early Warning System Matrix, drafting an Emergency Response Policy, and proper Camp Management. The participants also discussed the processes related to:

  • Participatory Risk Assessment, which involved Perceptions and Definitions of Different Types of Risk, Hazard Assessment, Vulnerability Assessment, Capacity Assessment and different Participatory Risk Assessment Tools;
  • Participatory DRRM Planning, focusing on the steps in formulating a Barangay DRRM Plan through Participatory Process and the basic contents of a DRRM Plan.

The two-day activity ended with a Group Planning on how the different organizations can best coordinate their separate engagements on the ground.

Stay tuned for updates. :-)

SEIU visits the “Yolanda Belt”

From April 22 to May 4, two representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fastest-growing union in North America (now with 2.2 million members and counting) visited the Philippines (Quezon City and Makati City in Metro Manila; Tacloban City, Dulag, Mayorga, Tanauan, Ormoc City and Merida in Leyte; Hernani, Mabini and Basey in Samar; Cebu City and Bantayan Island in Cebu) to meet representatives of the Philippine Labor Movement, visit the Yolanda-devastated communities, hear the stories of the survivors, and be updated on the progress of SEIU-supported rehabilitation projects for the victims of Yolanda.

Amado David, Organizing Director at SEIU-UHW (SEIU-United Health Workers West) and Dian Palmer, a Registered Nurse and currently President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and Member of the SEIU Executive Board, went with several ACF Staff on a 12-day tour of the “Yolanda Belt.”

In between meeting labor leaders, local government officials, union members and NGO workers in Quezon City, Tacloban City and Cebu City, Amado and Dian also participated in ground-breaking ceremonies for the various Daycare and Health Center projects that SEIU was supporting. They also distributed and even tested brand-new Fiberglass Bancas (complete with engines, rudders, propellers and outriggers) to fisher-beneficiaries in Barangays San Jose and Sungi in Dulag, Leyte.

Of course, Amado and Dian also always made time to meet and talk with ordinary community folk, especially kids, to hear their personal stories of survival and coping.

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 Fresh Buko (young coconut) Juice, anyone?

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15 Boats for Sicogon delivered! 15 more to come.

ACF is proud to report that with the support of Sweden’s Olof Palme International Center, 15 wooden fishing bancas have been delivered to Barangay Alipata, Sicogon, Carles, Iloilo, last April 23. These bancas , all 22-footers, will be distributed to the target Fishers’ Associations in the Municipalities of Carles and Estancia in Iloilo Province.

At the moment, the bancas are being stored at the Barangays’s basketball court until the other 15 bancas have been delivered so that all 30 can be distributed to the target beneficiaries at the same time.

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To complete the boats and make them usable for fishing, ACF shall coordinate with other donors and relevant government agencies to get the necessary engines and fishing gear. The fisher-beneficiaries, on the other hand, as per ACF’s counterpart-agreement with them, will be the ones to construct their own outriggers (Katig) and paint the bancas.

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Hopefully, through this generous donation from our Swedish friends, the fisher-beneficiaries of Carles and Estancia, including their families, will soon be able to return to the sea, resume their traditional livelihoods and no longer be dependent on “relief goods” from government. And through the upcoming seminar on sustainable fishing methods, to be held on-site with the fisher-beneficiaries, their families and their local government officials, the donated bancas will only be used in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.

After all, “rebuilding livelihoods” can also mean aiming for something that is better than what was true before.