HOPE Arrives in Panay Island, the Philippines
My assignment here in the Philippines is to identify a site in one of the affected areas where Project HOPE can establish a program for health and grief support.
Stacy Remke is volunteering with Project HOPE as part of our early needs assessment team in the Philippines, working to develop long-term programs as part of our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work following Typhoon Haiyan. She is a social worker and teaching specialist at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Stacy has over 27 years of experience in pediatric hospice and palliative care.
My assignment here in the Philippines is to identify a site in one of the affected areas where Project HOPE can establish a program for health and grief support. Our team leaders Jeff and Matt are weighing things like safety, resources to support a volunteer team for the next 3-6 months and which areas have the greatest needs.
It is so interesting for me to see how the NGO disaster relief world works. After arriving in Manila, I had breakfast the following morning with several individuals who work for various relief groups. We all put our heads together to evaluate next steps, where the greatest needs are, how the culture works and the need for fixers. I was able to contribute some ideas. For example, I know that working with local people is not only practical for our efforts now, but also builds sustainability since they have a sense of ownership of the operation. The inclusion of bereavement and palliative care is new for some of the NGOs.
We arrived in Roxas City on Sunday. We spent two days in Roxas City and Tapaz on Panay Island to evaluating the resources and needs in this area. The airport was open, but destruction from Typhoon Haiyan was evident from the bent and broken palms and the half-missing roof of the airport building. We had a hotel with working electricity, which was fortunate because most of the city is without power, and it is expected to be weeks before it is back up and running.
Our afternoon consisted of various meetings with officials and knowledgeable people from this area, including Assistant Health Minister Lea del Rosario, who described the structure of the health system here. She described the compelling needs in Tapaz, which was hard hit by the storm and has received little aid so far. She particularly mentioned the need for psychological first aid, which is in very short supply. We also talked with members of the Philippine and Canadian military about infrastructure and security issues. We ended the day at the Coordination Briefing, where NGO and government representatives coordinate responses and identify gaps.
Roxas City is the center for the coordination of the disaster response. There are many NGO’s there, and an impressive array of efforts is underway, ranging from the distribution of food and water to restarting education, developing a health care response and sheltering those whose homes were lost.