Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dolefil's Caravan of Hope

Parties were over and I need to pause. While I'm planning to celebrate a more meaningful Christmas, Dolefil came up with a plan of a relief operation for the victims of typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro City. Since I don't have much money to donate more, without a second thought, I volunteered myself to be part of Dolefil's Caravan of Hope. It was a quick decision that needed quick preparation for my first ever relief operation activity in a far away place. And together with more than sixty other volunteers including Dolefil Mountaineers, I went to CDO with mixed emotions -- excited to help the homeless families but I also felt sad for them because Christmas is also on its way.

The Caravan of Hope is another CSR of Dolefil as its response to provide aide to the victims of calamities such as typhoon Sendong which left CDO with homeless families. In a short span of time, the caravan has gathered overwhelming support both monetary and in kind not just from the employees of Dolefil but throughout the entire Dole Company as well. This activity is in partnership with Mahinatana Foundation, Dole Stanfilco and its Kasilak Development Foundation. Also supporting the caravan are Dolefil's business partners such as Unified Engineering. This is also in cooperation with Xavier University Social Involvement Office.

The volunteers from Dolefil
The journey towards CDO was longer than I thought. We passed through Carmen and encountered roads that were under construction. I can't believe we traveled almost twelve hours. When we reached the city, it was drizzling and it added to a feeling of depression. We also told that the entire city is experiencing water supply scarcity so most of the establishments there are making ways just to save water. We have also witnessed that residents were at the mercy of the scheduled water supply from a few potable water resources.

Next day came and we needed to wake up early for the briefing at Xavier University. The whole team were divided into three (3) groups for the simultaneous relief operations in four (4) different evacuation centers in the city. One team was assigned in a badly hit area of Macasandig where its barangay hall became the temporary home of 1,091 families. Another group was assigned in City Central Elementary School for the 898 families occupying there. The last team was advised to do the relief operation in two different centers -- the Canitoan Elementary School with 672 families and the West Central Elementary School with 640 families. Each family was given important items for their consumption -- rice, noodles, sardines, Dole fruit cups, Dolefil Christmas Packs, blankets, plastic mats, quilts, water, toothpaste, toothbrush and slippers.

I was assigned to take the photos of the operation so I got the chance to visit all the assigned areas. When we got to our first stop at Canitoan Elementary School, my heart was crushed to see the evacuees both young and old staying in a covered court of the school with only pieces of cartons as their protection against the cold surface of the floor while their bunch of few stuffs that were saved during the flood were lying beside them if not hanging on the sidewalls of the place. Our next destinations revealed much of the worst cases of the typhoon Sendong victims -- no enough food and water, people everywhere busy collecting and battling for relief goods, garbage almost all over, some were sick and others were also busy organizing their tiny space in the hall while having high hopes that they can get out of the miserable place someday. And the children, their innocence was blemished with such a traumatic experience. I just prayed that they can still enjoy their youth in a normal condition. I can't believe it. The scenario as seen in television is real right before my very eyes. 

Canitoan Evacuation Center
West Central Elementary School
City Central Elementary School
Macasandig Barangay Hall
Slipper distribution at Xavier University
I noticed during the distribution of goods that while some people are still in the state of shock with their current situation, most of them are so delighted to see people who extended their helping hands to donate and made extra time for them. As we greet them "Merry Christmas" they did a hopeful respond with a sincere "Thank you very much!" in their voices. T'was really touching as you can see from their eyes that somehow they were a bit relieved of their situation. 

This cute kid is a symbol of hope
This humbling experience taught me lots of lessons. While we enjoy water and food especially this season, somewhere in this place are experiencing scarcity of those essential things. While most  of us are complaining that life sucks due to little discomfort we have encountered, think of some people who don't even have beds so that they can sleep properly during the cold nights. I wonder how the victims of Sendong can cheer "Merry Christmas" in a situation such as theirs. The long hours of travel may not be enough to equate the plight of some Cagayanons but it felt good that somehow with these little ways of helping people in need, we can find a true meaning of Christmas in our hearts.

1) Dole Philippines, Inc 
4) Allan Diola
8) Unified Engineering & other Dolefil Business Partners
9) Mahinatana Foundation
10) Dole Stanfilco
11) Kasilak Development Foundation
12) Xavier University

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