Mindanao-wide NGOs helping ‘Yolanda’ survivors in Leyte

TACLOBAN CITY (MindaNews/25 November)—A Mindanao-wide network of non-government organizations (NGOs) has delivered relief goods and services to survivors of typhoon “Yolanda” in this city and other municipalities in Leyte.

Sister Noemi Degala, of the Sisters Association in Mindanao and a convenor of BALSA (Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan)-Mindanao, said they have extended at least 50,000 relief food packs since Sunday.

At least 690 volunteers from across Mindanao joined the relief operation, she said, adding they are slated to do another relief operation next month.

Aside from their relief and medical mission, the group has set up a help desk to assist typhoon survivors contact their relatives in Mindanao, Degala said.

“It’s either we make contact through phone calls or if they don’t have contact numbers, we contact their relatives through local radio stations,” she said.

Degala said they will conclude their operation tomorrow (Tuesday) after starting last November 22.

For BALSA-Mindanao’s second wave of help in Leyte and Samar provinces tentatively set on Dec. 16 to 22, Degala said they may offer psychosocial therapy intervention for survivors suffering from trauma or depression, dental mission and free legal clinic.

Balsa means a bamboo floating raft, which symbolizes the people’s resilience and determination to survive.

For some volunteers, the experience is rewarding.

“At least, I spend my time for the victims here. I may not have money but I helped by carrying sacks of reliefs goods,” said 21-year old Marthy Mijares of Surigao City, jobless and a college undergraduate.

It was his first time to visit this city.

“It’s badly hit by the typhoon. When we arrived the other day, we saw lots of dead people stuffed in a body bag and placed on the side of the road. Everyday, I can see dead people,” Mijares said.

Mijares said he and seven other friends from Surigao City have volunteered even in their hometown after Yolanda struck.

“We have been packing relief items and we are happy doing this,” he said.

BALSA-Mindanao (also Bulig alang sa Mindanao/Help for Mindanao) is a broad Mindanao-wide network formed in 2011 in response to the humanitarian crisis after typhoon Sendong ravaged parts of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City.

BALSA takes off from the efforts of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao and Panday Bulig NGO, which pioneered the humanitarian campaign for Northern Mindanao post-Sendong.

It takes inspiration from, and is therefore a continuation of, the national citizen-led disaster response called BALSA (Bayanihan alay sa Sambayanan) in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy in Luzon in 2009.

It is a people’s mobilization for disaster response and climate justice. It relies on a stream of volunteers from all over Mindanao, who bring with them various expertise and contributions needed to help empower and rebuild affected communities. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)