Makinabang Tayo

I liked today’s meetup. It felt like I had a bucket and was just catching all the information raining down from heaven. You see folks, I am studying disasters myself and would not pass up on the opportunity to hear from a person with first hand experience. JB, the iVolunteer Director even teased, ‘Nakinabang ka nanaman’ and he was right — I did gain something again. But really, the bigger picture is this — volunteering creates for me the world with the healthiest give and take system I can ever imagine. Wouldn’t anyone want to live in that?

Recently, I discovered that I am not who I am when I cannot give. For a while, I was in between jobs and I couldn’t afford to buy my brother even a burger mcdo. It crushed my heart so much because I finally knew how it felt not being able to give. It may have been a burger then, but I knew the feeling would be the same if it were time or energy. This realisation put things in perspective for me, thus leading me to my biggest gain so far, a sense of direction. I have vowed to educate and equip myself for the life of helping that is ahead of me by pursuing master’s to understand Philippines more, joining iVolunteer to learn the ropes, and choosing a line of work complementing my volunteering goals. These vows get renewed and the disaster preparedness meetup did just that for me.

I re-learned that disasters are more than just nature’s after effects that we are familiar with. It is more than the floods, the casualties, the losses. It has a socio-economic dimension that pre-exists the typhoon or the earthquake. It involves one’s capacity to be prepared when met by natural phenomena. It involves one’s capacity to build a home that is sturdy for the typhoon, or to even have a home. It involves one’s bank account to have the funds to pay for repairs, or to even have an account. It involves the infrastructure that would allow elderly and differently abled citizens to be empowered to manage themselves during a disaster. It involves a lot of other things we tend to forget.

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So helping then is more than just relief packing. Helping for disasters is helping to enable and capacitate others. The next time I tutor a kid with He Cares, I will be capacitating her with the desire for knowledge so she can ask the right questions and vote wisely, and afford to build a sturdy home in the future. Next time I plant a tree with Haribon, I will be capacitating the environment to get itself back in shape. Next time I join a community development program, I will be capacitating the families with the ability to open a bank account and purchase an insurance policy.

I know there will be more volunteer opportunities to come, ones that will be more specific to disasters. Results of collaboration with disaster preparedness organizations will provide venues to truly imbibe the disaster-prepared culture. Watch out for it folks, because it really is about time that we face the hard truth. As Paolo Valenzuela, the speaker put it, we are the 711 of disasters, we are too convenient and open 24/7 for them.

So to the people out there who are exploring the world of volunteering, wag kayo mahiya. Attend meet ups like these, there’s so much to learn and to gain. Pakinabangan natin ‘to.

– Carissa Geronimo, 18 October 2014

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