Yolanda Aftermath: Filipino Dos and Don’ts in a time of Crisis
While the Philippines is still reeling from the effects of super typhoon Yolanda, we continue to get news regarding the desperation and suffering of survivors in the affected areas. However, the jumble of information from the media, the tendency of some media outfit to sensationalize an irrelevant and unsubstantiated piece of information and the voices of some on the internet has led many to feel confused, hesitant and angry over the situation.
For those of us who have not been affected by the typhoon, it is up to us to help the families who are affected by the typhoon, and we need to put all our energies to fulfill this goal. Although we may be miles away from the calamity zones, we can still affect the overall relief and rehabilitation operations in the Visayas.
How? Our smallest actions can lead to the biggest consequences. Here are some things we should and should not do to make sure that the consequences we generate are all positive:
- Donate. Donate money or in-kind that cover the basic necessities like food, water, clothes, hygiene kits, and others. For those who do not know what to give, or for those who live too far away to send perishable goods cash is the safest donation. Cash can also cover those items we cannot give but people would need like construction materials, fuel for vehicles and others.
- Volunteer. If you don’t have the means to donate cash or in-kind, you can always give your time. Aside from helping charities and institutions repack relief goods, you can also ‘donate’ your time by joining fundraising programmes set up by public and private groups in your neighbourhood.
- Raise awareness about what happened. Spread word about the news. Don’t just spend hours watching the latest news, googling the most recent videos or reading comments of netizens, share and pass on the information you find. Not everyone may be on the loop, and even if they are, not everyone may find reason to donate for the cause. Explain the situation in terms they would understand. Influencing others to do their part will make a huge difference to those who are waiting for aid.
- Talk to the survivors. If you have relatives or friends who were there during the calamity, talk to them. Let them tell their stories and voice out their pains. The experience not only left them physically weak — they were also traumatised emotionally by the typhoon. Talking to them helps to lessen, to some degree, the impact of the tragedy they have experienced. It would also help you understand what other survivors have gone through.
- Boost the morale of volunteers. If you know people who are working for charity organisations or institutions who are directly involved in the relief operations, cheer them on. They have also seen the devastation left by the calamity and they also get tired of fulfilling their duty. Talk to them and let them air out their thoughts and feelings. This will give them renewed strength to continue their work.
- Give constructive criticism. Many people have not been satisfied by the way authorities responded to the crisis. However, bashing alone will not help in the relief efforts. Airing angry sentiments can also result to emotional responses from other people, leading to misunderstandings. Sharing your views on how things could have been done better is valuable if only for the sake of improving future disaster preparedness plans. Take these suggestions to the right channel like civic disaster groups or even the local barangay to make sure that they will be heard and possibly implemented in the future.
- Keep the Interest Alive. In a few weeks, or maybe days, if another catastrophe would happen in another part of the world, what happened in the Visayas would be forgotten. It is our duty as Filipinos to keep the information going, keep the story alive. Our brothers and sisters in the affected areas would need to rebuild their lives because their needs will not end with arrival of the food packages.
- Pass on unconfirmed reports. News can be disorderly after a crisis because of multiple sources, rumours and hearsay. Sensationalising news can cause unneeded panic and misunderstandings. In addition, those whose families have been directly affected by the calamity may also easily cling on to news, good or bad. But unreliable information can bring about false hope or disappointment, and even end up hurting people more than intended. Before passing on any information, cross-check facts and details.
- Be boastful. Do not call attention to yourself when making a donation or giving aid to those who need it. In addition, do not announce that you’re planning to give aid when you haven’t even done anything yet. Aside from drawing away focus on the relief efforts, you may draw flak for sounding boastful of your acts and turn off people who want to help.
- Fall for crab mentality. The pouring in of help and the endless stream of volunteers and donations to provide help to our fellowmen who fell victims to the super typhoon is very inspiring and heartwarming. However, like crabs in a bucket, there are still some people who love to criticize others instead of offering useful suggestions. Spread good news like stories of survival and stories of generosity that can inspire people instead of bring them down. Furthermore this would make people more hopeful and energised to volunteer.
- Stick to labels. Many desperate victims of the typhoon have been tagged negative labels like ‘looters’ and ‘criminals’ because of acts that aren’t legal. However, we must remember that they don’t normally resolve to these acts in the everyday context. A crisis can drive people to do things they may not like, but nonetheless are vital for their survival. Give them leeway and understand that their situation is not normal.
- Say meaningless statements. A lot of netizens have resorted to saying senseless and even painful statements as ‘the Philippines will be fine,’ ‘they have the privilege of experiencing what they did because they are strong’ and ‘they should be thankful.’ Statements like these may sound cool and comforting to some but these do not sit well, to say the least, to the victims, their relatives and even to volunteers who are heavily involved in the relief and rehab operations.
- Be satisfied with what you have done so far. Give and continue to do so until you have the means to. As mentioned earlier you can give in so many ways not only materially. Many people have lost their loved ones, their properties and everything else they own. Many of them do not have the means to start a new life and cannot think of their future beyond the day. Keep giving help for as long as you can.
It is our duty as a Filipino to help our fellow Filipinos get up on their feet. During times of crisis, everyone can make a huge difference just by doing something small. No action is insignificant if in the end it helps lessen the sufferings of those who become victims of a calamity.