Jul 8, 2020

Resisting Coronavirus and Exclusion with Your Help

Ka Noli and others inspect the new wall
Ka Noli and others inspect the new wall

It’s been a tough few months in Banaba, both for residents and our amazing local partner Buklod Tao.

Shortly after our last report a “community quarantine” was imposed on Metro Manila and neighbouring San Mateo, the municipality within which Banaba lies. Then, on April 21, this became an “enhanced community quarantine”, with much stricter restrictions.

This affected all residents, including Buklod Tao’s volunteer rescue boat crews who help their neighbours during floods and other emergencies. Many residents, including these crews work in casual blue-collar jobs and their income stopped as a result.

Initially the local government provided emergency food to help meet basic needs, but this has slowed or stopped as the restrictions have slowly eased again. However, although some residents are able to work again the economy is still weak and the need for help is still present.

Thankfully Banaba itself has reported very few cases of Coronavirus, but the threat of the disease also hasn’t gone away, so we’re continuing to work with Buklod Tao to provide any and all help we can, especially now the rainy season has returned.

There’s also been another challenge to contend with as access to the Banaba Livelihood & Evacuation Centre has also been threatened.

The land on which the Centre sits was purchased back in 2011. This was possible thanks to the help of international and local NGOs following the deadly typhoon Ondoy, known internationally as Ketsana, which struck in 2009. While another local NGO technically owns the land, Buklod Tao have been its stewards from the beginning on the understanding they would eventually become full owners in the future.

While this understanding is not under threat another challenge surrounding access has arisen. The original land deal stipulated that an access road to the Centre, that passes through neighbouring land, would be provided and maintained. This has indeed been the case since purchase, and IDV’s own international volunteers helped to fortify this road against erosion back in 2012.

Sadly, despite the original access stipulation, a local development corporation has recently cut the access road off. Buklod Tao’s President, Ka Noli, explained:

“After almost ten years, the Realty and Development Corporation has in the last 3 weeks, moved to construct a wall, seven feet high, traversing through its property that cuts across our access road. Thus, the issue is that the easy ingress and egress of Buklod Tao and evacuees seeking shelter has been compromised by the erection of a long, high wall”.

This move hasn’t gone unchallenged of course. Both Buklod Tao members, and the local NGO who holds the land title, have met with the corporation to remind them of the legal obligation for access. The corporation has since agreed to talk to Buklod Tao and other affected landowners nearby, but the wall has already been built and with the rain now falling heavily every afternoon and evening, there was an urgent need to find alternative access, even if only for the short-term.

Happily, a neighbouring landowner has agreed to provide access via his rooster farm which also borders the Centre. Everyone has been grateful for this but the route was initially crowded with undergrowth and clearing this has taken hard work in the humid climes of Banaba.

While Buklod Tao’s members have volunteered to support this task, your kind donations also enabled several local residents to be paid to help out too. This made the work easier and quicker and also provided some much needed employment for people suffering from Covid-19’s economic impacts. Thanks so much for making this possible.

As a result, access to the Centre for Buklod Tao, and for evacuees when the floods and typhoons inevitably arise, has been restored. The truck we donated to Buklod Tao after ending our volunteer deployment in Tacloban is also thankfully able to reach the Centre too.

So, while the challenges faced by Banaba in these extraordinary times haven’t abated, so far they’re being resisted thanks to your incredible support.

We’ll keep you posted as our work in Banaba continues, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email Andy@IDVolunteers.org. I’d be delighted to hear from you as always.

A new access road had to be identified
A new access road had to be identified
Undergrowth had to be cleared
Undergrowth had to be cleared
Evacuees and even the truck can now gain access
Evacuees and even the truck can now gain access
Apr 27, 2020

Community Quarantine Bites in Banaba

TJ chats to a boat crew leader during his visit
TJ chats to a boat crew leader during his visit

Like much of the rest of the world, life in the community of Banaba near Manila has changed suddenly in the last couple of months.

In late February things were still relatively normal. The Banaba Livelihood & Evacuation Centre, described in our last report, was still welcoming visitors, many of whom come to see the amazing work you support.

Ka Noli, President of our amazing local partners Buklod Tao, explained as follows:

On Thursday morning, 27th February 2020. I was in the company of TJ, a Masters student at the University of the Philippines. His masteral thesis is on Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. He opted to come (twice already) to Buklod Tao upon advice of his masters adviser, Dr. Jake. 

During the visit on 27th February, his itinerary was to observe, document and take photos of the physical realities of Buklod Tao activities and he focused on the fiber-glass rescue boats that are already deployed in many peripheral Buklod Tao communities.

TJ saw almost all the fiber-glass rescue boats, dry-docked at the vicinity of each crew leaders’ house. He was so impressed, and I was so proud to present to him the boats because they were recently repaired and repainted and adorned with newly printed stickers, courtesy of IDV donors! Salamat po! Salamat po! (Thank you! Thank you!)”

The “crews” Ka Noli refers to are all local residents who volunteer during floods to protect and rescue their neighbours. These volunteers selflessly put themselves in harms way when disasters strike, but they’re now facing a danger they weren’t able to train for.

Ka Noli, continued as follows:

Effective 15th March 2020 community quarantine has been imposed in Metro Manila and that includes San Mateo, Rizal, our municipality. 

I have been observing self-isolation since 16th March. Communication with other Buklod Tao members like Pablo and Francia is done via SMS and Facebook Messenger. We have not seen each other since the quarantine started.

Our boat crews are normally engaged in blue collar jobs, and sometimes casually. But since 21st April there is an enhanced community quarantine, which is more strict and stringent, and so their income has stopped.

Buklod Tao has been helping but we are also being affected by the lockdown, and now we have no more resources to help out our already suffering crews. The local government unit of Banaba is making efforts to distribute packed goods, but we are worried about surviving”.

We know it’s hard for everyone at the moment, but if you’re able to help by making a donation to support Banaba’s boat crews during this difficult time, we’d be incredibly grateful as always.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support, and if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to email Andy@IDVolunteers.org. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

The boats are crewed by local volunteers
The boats are crewed by local volunteers
TJ, Ka Noli and a boat crew leader
TJ, Ka Noli and a boat crew leader
A local waterway which floods regularly
A local waterway which floods regularly
Mar 16, 2020

Standing firm at the HTDC Orphanage in Haiti

The kids are smiling because of you
The kids are smiling because of you

Thanks so much for your continued support for the children at the HTDC Orphanage in Haiti.

In our last update we asked you to help provide some Christmas cheer at the orphanage, which was facing ongoing political unrest and violence outside its gates.

Many of you responded and as a result of your generosity the kids got the Christmas they deserved. Orphanage Director Carlo had this to say:

Thanks to the donors we bought toys for all the kids. All our kids get two toys and they loved having a Christmas party. Christelle was very happy she got some toys that she wanted to have. Nolson got balls and cars that he can drive with remote control. He loves it and he was very happy. Thank you!”.

We echo Carlo’s thanks. The children had a great Christmas because of you!

Sadly the unrest in Haiti has continued into the new year however. February should have been a joyous time as the country celebrated Carnival. Unfortunately gun shots on the streets meant that Port-au-Prince’s celebrations were cut short.

As always Carlo was keen to keep things inside the orphanage as normal as possible:

“The political situation in Haiti is the same, but we are doing our best for the kids to feel more comfortable. So, we had our own carnival party for the kids with music and painting faces”.

Even after working with Carlo for ten years we still continue to be amazed by his resilience and determination in the face of adversity. The orphanage and children are fortunate to benefit from his leadership, especially as they’re now facing yet another threat.

While the Haitian government hasn’t reported any suspected or known cases of Coronavirus preparations are intensifying as more cases start to emerge in the region, including in the neighbouring Dominican Republic (DR).

Many people in Haiti lack basic knowledge about what the virus is, how it spreads and how to help prevent it, so training and education is vital, including within the orphanage itself. Carlo explained as follows:

“I am hiring two people to train the staff for a couple weeks about hygiene specifically for the Coronavirus. It is close to us now with a couple cases in the DR next door.

I am trying to set up a water station to make sure the kids wash their hands as often as possible to prevent it. I’m also getting them more vitamins and good food to help them keep their immune system strong.

We also take stronger steps to make sure when people come to the orphanage they make sure they wash their hands before access. The teacher also start telling the kids about the virus to help them understand the situation and keep teaching them how to wash their hands as often as possible.

I would like to know if it’s possible for the donors to help out with some funds as an emergency fund, to be ready in case the Coronavirus comes badly to Haiti. We are currently doing our best to keep the place cleaner and have the kids wash their hands, but we will need to buy more cleaning products and keep providing good food for the kids to keep their immune system on top.”

Like in our last report, we know you’ve already given so much, but we’re hope you can continue supporting the HTDC orphanage as they brace for yet another impact. If you ever have any questions about the orphanage and how we use your donations, please don’t hesitate to email Andy@IDVolunteers.org. I would be delighted to hear from you.

Some of the Christmas gifts you provided
Some of the Christmas gifts you provided
Face paint for Carnival
Face paint for Carnival
See you next time for more updates from Haiti
See you next time for more updates from Haiti
 
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