Ate Kimmy: Painting a rainbow for Zamboanga IDPs

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/08 June) — To the majority, helping people who are in dire conditions means extending financial assistance and donating relief goods. But Krizza Mari Sergas, a humanitarian worker, believes that essential help is “when a reliable party walks with these people through every step” and finishes “when smiles are successfully painted on their faces.”

Ate Kimmy, as she is fondly called by children in the transitory sites, has served three recovery program areas in the city: one year at the Tulungatung transitory site, five months at the Buggoc transitory site, and one month and counting at Grandstand, Zone C.

A transitory site is where internally displaced persons (IDPs) can stay while awaiting the completion of the construction of their houses in the permanent sites. Residents displaced in September 2013 due to the three-week standoff between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front under founding chair Nur Misuari, sought shelter in schools and the grandstand until they were transferred to the transitory sites.
Ate Kimmy did not have any second thoughts on taking the job when offered a Camp Management Support Staff position.

“Maskin no hay pa el [Zamboanga] siege ,no hay iyo man think twice trabaha huntu con el maga IDPs. Amo gayot yo se clase de trabaho kiere ay queda involved. (Even before the Zamboanga siege happened, I did not think twice on working with IDPs. This is really the kind of job I want myself to be involved in,” shared the BS Community Development alumna of Western Mindanao State University.

Colors of the Rainbow

One of the most precious parts of her job is the time she gets to spend with the IDPs, the people she considers as her own family. Ate Kimmy claims she will “never forget the moving stories these IDP families have entrusted to me.”

She clearly remembers the tragedies narrated to her by traumatized mothers. “Karamihan sa kanila umiiyak, as in humahagulgol talaga, tuwing kinukwento nila kung pa’no nila nakita yung mga bahay nila na nanasunog at yung mga gamit nila na ’di na nila nadatnan pagbalik nila. Feel nila nag back to zero talaga sila. (Most of them cry whenever they tell their stories of seeing their houses burn and knowing that all of their belongings are gone. They feel that everything they have worked for is gone)”

On the brighter side, she also articulated the inspirational comebacks done by persevering IDPs. “I also remember the realizations shared to me by Anti Dada and Anti Haidi. Like every IDP, they were given an assistance fund. But instead of just using it all for necessities, they decided to open a sari-sari store. Now, their capital has increased and they are earning enough to sustain their families’ needs.” She quoted Anti Haidi as saying, “Ma’am Kimmy, dapat pala ‘di kame laging umasa sa tulong ng gobyerno.Kaya naman pala kung tiya-tiyagain. (Ma’am Kimmy, we realized that we do not need to entirely depend on the assistance given by the government. We can do it if we work hard.)”

She spoke of the natural friendliness of Badjao children at the Buggoc transitory site and how “much willing they were to learn” about health and cleanliness.

Concerns and Alternatives

Now currently the Camp Manager at Zone C, one of the four areas in the City’s Grandstand, Ate Kimmy expresses her concern for IDPs who refuse to transfer to their assigned transitory sites.

“Ta discutir pa sila na gobierno kay tan rason sila kay lehos daw el mga areas assigned kanila. Mas bueno pa daw kun aki sila na Grandstand, mas serka na poblacion, si onde sila ta trabaha, y tambien mas serka na mga escuela de maga bata (They argue with the government as they reason out that the areas assigned to them are far from the city. They claim that it is better to stay here at Grandstand because it is nearer the city proper, nearer where they work and nearer to their children’s schools).”

“As an alternative, we explain to them that staying in Grandstand is not a good idea because it will be rehabilitated soon. We enact social preparations for them. Our strategy is to tell them that they will be getting recovery shelters, stable supply of water and electricity, a livelihood program, and money for the school necessities of their children,” she said.

“I am confident, though, that everyone will be given justice. I believe that this situation calls for an organized and proactive leader- and we have that leader at this time.”

Asked about her biggest learning and contribution to her newfound family, Ate Kimmy said, “At first, I had doubts on whether I could handle the clients because my religion is different from theirs, their traditions and culture are foreign to mine. But as time passed, I got closer to them.”

”As a humanitarian worker, I am obligated to find them comfortable sites and be with them until they are able to have permanent houses. I could say that my most essential help to them is the fact that I am present in times when they are so down and I am there to remind them that the future is still in their hands… there is always a rainbow after the rain. So never give up.” (Dave “Sky” Cervas/for MindaNews)

(Dave ‘Sky’ Cervas is a 2nd year Accountancy student of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. Cervas is an intern under the Peace Journalism Training and Internship Program of the Zamboanga City Government organized with the support of USAID-ENGAGE)