Disaster Response Management Program
Environmental disasters such as landslides and typhoons are some of the events that Philippines always encounter. With this frequent challenge, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) came up with its Disaster Response Management Program to contribute in responding to the needs of the survivors of disasters.
Disaster management covers broad scope that caters to preparedness, mitigation, response and rehabilitation but SLB focuses on the response and rehabilitation aspects of Disaster Management. As an immediate response to the needs of the survivors, SLB gathers funds and goods from donors and send relief goods to the disaster areas in coordination with the religious institutions, Social Action Centers and local communities. SLB also conducts rehabilitation activities through Psycho-social Intervention.
Upon some reflections on these experiences, over and above the undeniable situation for civil society to augment the government’s efforts at addressing needs of resource-poor communities struck by calamities, the following insights have been gained and have further strengthened SLB’s resolve to continue this line of work.
* Disaster response is a compelling way to move people from apathy to involvement
Disaster affects all of us, deeply. Regardless of social class, gender or race, we are moved to the most powerful emotions whether we are its victims, survivors or spectators. Pity, grief, anger, pain, and compassion, have at one point or another, become part of us amidst the aftermath of tragedy.
Despite languid and seemingly apathetic reactions by the general public for socio-political action, the response is never this way for disaster. In all of SLB’s relief efforts, donors were sending in their donations and volunteers came to help pack goods within days of the tragedy. “Is there anything I can do or give?” is what people would immediately be asking, even before the fund drives are formally launched. The disaster response operations (of collecting, bagging and delivering the donations) become an invaluable opportunity for so many citizens to move beyond lip service to concrete action.
* In the work of disaster response, deeply Christian humanist values are fostered
The experience of our donors and volunteers is that of responding to a call. Sometimes people will help in packing relief goods, simply because there is a call for help (even if they are not so much aware of the situation in the affected areas). On the other hand, others who later reflect on their involvement, find how the circumstances of their working with SLB are far more than coincidental, and have led them to deeper, lasting engagements in social development where they have found life-meaning.
Calamities like typhoons and flash floods bring the vulnerability and the social insecurity of the poorest of the poor to the core. More and more concerned private citizens get involved in doing something. This then leads them by far to a greater consciousness towards the option for the poor and social responsibility.
* Over time, people are moved from involvement to commitment, then to dedication
Current fund raising and advocacy paradigms have identified the dynamics of being able to move people from indifference to awareness, awareness to involvement, involvement to commitment, then finally, commitment to dedication. Many repeat-donors and volunteers who have become regulars at relief operations have affirmed this to be an accurate picture of how such an opportunity to serve has grown on them and has helped them make the choice to do more regular service or volunteer work. Such a dynamic is clearly fertile ground for the seeds of responsible citizenship to be planted. Interestingly, the said dynamic of faith, of one’s relationship with his or her God, in this case, is concretely faith that does justice.
* Emotional bonds to areas of need become the building blocks for lasting concern
For many volunteers the memory of having helped in relief operations for a community badly hit by a calamity forms emotional bonds. Long after the relief operations, they may be a little more alert in listening to the news when that particular place is mentioned. Some even follows up with the SLB office long after the operations (e.g. “Kumusta na yung napuntahan natin sa Guinsaugon?”) In the experience of other volunteer groups such emotional bonds to areas of need and the chance to participate in shared efforts become building blocks for a deep, lasting concern and that larger sense of community (that our actions can make a difference beyond our own micro-communities). Expanded further, this sense of stake or emotional investment, are perhaps the foundations for what we know we need to build on as people: a stronger sense of nationhood and love for country.
* The response of donors and volunteers has always been overwhelmingly inspiring
The generosity of the donors, the magnanimity of the volunteers, the spirit of magis that drives us to make better our efforts to help (i.e. the development of the psycho-social framework and network, the immediate response, seeing people from all walks of life, coming together for a common purpose: these all are the icons of hope that we so much seek for this generation.