life, work

08/09 – Day 260: Philippine Red Cross

Join the premiere humanitarian organization in its quest to alleviate human suffering…

From the PRC website:

August is International Humanitarian Law Month

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), along with the, Department of National Defense, Department of Foreign Affairs, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights, and the Department of Interior and Local Government will spearhead the commemoration of IHL Month with a series of activities aimed at heightening public awareness and respect for IHL.

I decided to post about Red Cross because I would like to pay my respect and kudos to the volunteers who left their homes and families just to be of help to our fellow Filipinos affected by the flood due to heavy monsoon rains. I admire their courage to face adversities head on. I am proud that I was once an active Red Cross volunteer.

When a Red Cross volunteer comes knocking in the Philippines, you answer!

The Philippines is no stranger to typhoons, with an average of 20 hitting the country each year, usually between May and October. But the cycle in recent years has changed. Either typhoons come back-to-back leaving a trail of destruction – Ketsana, Parma and Mirinae in 2009 and Nesat and Nalgae in 2011 – or they are not unanticipated at all – Washi struck one week before Christmas in 2011.

This year, residents of Manila were caught off guard when torrential rain poured down on the capital for 72 hours, swamping the low-lying areas, flooding major roads and shutting public facilities. The deluge created vast lakes in portions of the city, more than 400,000 people had to flee their homes and seek temporary shelter elsewhere.

Margarita Morales, a resident of Barangay Bagong Silangan in Quezon City, was one of them. Late in the evening on 6 August she lay awake, unable to sleep due to the unusually heavy rain. Sometime around midnight she heard a loud knock on the door, and a voice telling her to leave her home quickly as the floodwater was rising fast.

Margarita recognized the voice. It was Ching Serencio, one of the 143 Red Cross volunteers living in their barangay. (‘Red Cross 143′ is an initiative that aims to reinforce Philippine Red Cross’s presence in all 42,000 barangays [villages] across the country.

Under the project, the National Society aims to recruit and train 44 volunteers, comprising a team leader and 43 members from every barangay.) Margarita, together with four children, rushed to an evacuation center higher in their village. A few minutes later, her house was washed away as the riverbank burst.

She and her children stayed at the evacuation center for five days and returned to salvage what was left in their house. There was nothing. “I can’t imagine what could have happened to myself and my children should we have failed to flee our home ahead of time,” Margarita says.

Barangay Bagong Silangan in Quezon City is flood-prone as it lies beside a river which overflows when there’s heavy rain. The growing number of Red Cross volunteers in the village – there are currently 30 – are always on alert when there’s a storm coming or any type of bad weather.

“As Red Cross volunteers in this barangay, we make sure that the residents here do pre-emptive evacuation to save more lives in times of disaster,” Ching Serencio says. At the height of the heavy rains, she went house-to-house blowing her whistle – which volunteers use to signal evacuation – informing people in the barangay which evacuation site to go to.

“I may not have been able to save anything from my house except the clothes we were wearing when the floods came, but I will forever be thankful to Ching and the Red Cross for the early warning to flee our home,” Margarita says.