October 4, 2009

Volunteerism! Alive in the hearts of the young Filipinos

I was coming home happy after watching the Knights defeat the Stags last September 25, Me and my friends were in the car screaming and shouting "Arriba Letran!" on the streets until the rain started to fall.

The next morning, I woke up late, had my breakfast and then tuned in to DZMM Teleradyo, and from that moment I saw that disaster had fallen to Luzon. People were on their rooftops, some were swept away by flash floods and others drowned inside their homes. At first I couldn't believe the pictures that I was seeing on net, There was flood on places that was not prone to flash floods. I spent the day watching the News and calling up my friends and relatives to check if they were safe in their houses.

On the 27th of September, Search and Rescue teams from PNP and the Navy started to mobilize, The rescue team found it hard to save the people on their roofs because of the strong current, the power lines added as an obstacle to the way and lack of equipment. At around 7pm there was a distress call by my uncle that they were already in the rooftops of their home, I got really worried and I just couldn't believe what I heard. Everybody went silent in the house. I just sat in front of the television and watch the Broadcasters and Journalists trying to help these stranded people by relaying the information to the Rescuers. I just couldn't watch the News anymore, I felt guilty that I'm not doing anything for these people.

That was the time when it really hit me, I said to myself "I'm here on the house, safe and sound, no flood or electricity interruption and my friends and relatives are on their roofs with nothing to eat, I have to do something".

So I called up my friend who wants to volunteer, I said to him that I would just sneak out of the house because I doubted that if I asked my parents if I can volunteer they might not allow me. We decided to meet up at the MRT station to go to Sagip Kapamilya to help repack the donations. I left the house at 5am so that they won't see me. All I brought was my cellphone, Wallet and Extra shirt on my bag. Upon arriving at MRT we went to Sagip Kapamilya and registered as volunteers. Our co-volunteers were also college students like us.

We packed clothes for infants, children and adults while the others packed canned goods. We had a chance to meet new people in our lives, different people from different walks of life. We were there for an hour until more volunteers came and I felt that repacking donations wasn't my style of helping victims. I called up my friend who was a volunteer at the Philippine National Red Cross Rizal Chapter and I asked if there was a deployment available to the affected areas, and he said that they were leaving at 10am. From Quezon City I dragged my friend from bulacan to Pasig City where the Red Cross were.

We were just in time when we arrived there, they were good to go so we joined the deployment going to Floodway Pasig city for a feeding program. Floodway was beside Pasig River and when we arrived there people were cleaning their houses. We found shelter and started to feed the people, People started shoving each other off the line because they were so hungry as I stood up try to calm the crowd but some wouldn't really listen. Our supplies only fed 29 families while more than 100 lined up hoping they'll get their lion's share. It was hard for me to say that there was no more food available, some simply walked away and others were dissapointed and one even started cursing us. With no more supplies available, we headed back to Red Cross Rizal Chapter Headquarters.

After eating our lunch I started to help in carrying all sorts of donations to the stockroom. Clothes, Canned Goods, Water, Food and others offered their cars to be used in deployments. There was no social discrimination during that time, either you're rich or poor, We all had this burning goal and passion to help. During breaks I had a chance to talk with other volunteers, We shared stories to each other and talked about our experiences so far with the Red Cross.

I was like in a crowd of Golden Hearted people, I saw donors after dropping their goods they just run away because they didn't want the Red Cross to know who they were. They were true donors not like some officials who donated, yes they donated packed foods but do they need to stamp their names on the packed goods they've given.

Around 8pm an assignment was given to us to deploy to Marikina to bring food for the volunteers and would leave at 9pm. Our group was only 15 people strong with 250 packs of goods on our cars. While we were driving our way to marikina I saw the deperation of people trying to make a living out of cars.

The location had no electricity, mud was all over the place, some streets were flooded, some not so we had to find our way to the site. We were like in a movie where the place was deserted and broken glass and broken doors indicated that the house was robbed and Scavengers were running across the street carrying things that I know did not belong to them.

When we stopped for a while we were ordered not to get out of the car so that people won't jump on us asking for relief goods but not far away an accident took place where a motorcycle crashed into a passenger FX. We had no choice but to ignore the order of our team leader and we ran to the helpless and bleeding motorcycle driver. Luckily we had 2 nurses with us and they assisted the man. I was shocked because it was my first time to see someone bleeding and fight for his life. Thanks to God, someone passing by volunteered to bring the victim to the hospital so that we can carry on to our mission.

Finally we got to the site we were greeted by a starving Team leader. We started distributing food packs to the hungry volunteers and to my surprise, Singer "Sitti" was there to join the volunteers! We talked to some of them and they were tired but still willing to help. I was tired too but everytime I think about the people sleeping on their rooftops I feel a lot stronger and it adds fuel to my fire of passion to help people.

We went back to headquarters at around 12am. Our job was finished for the night. We were dead tired, I was working from 8am to 12am. I worked a total 16 hours of volunteerism so when I got home I took a shower and then pigged out the refrigirator and then slept for 11 hours straight.

Thus, In times of need the Filipinos will always be known for being kind-hearted to their fellow countrymen. This is a country of patriots, this is a country of selfless people, this is a country of volunteers and I can truly say that:


these are some pics from my experience as a Red Cross volunteer.
Being a Red Cross volunteer IS NOT COOL...IT's LEGENDARY :D