Two of the participants of the New Volunteers Training Camp on March 31 shared their experiences living in a post-Yolanda town. They were unafraid to admit that they joined in the widespread looting at the time, driven by desperation to survive.
For the topic of international relief, Tzu Chi volunteer Joe Chang conducted his talk via video-conference from Taiwan. He shared information of the recent typhoon that struck southeastern Africa.
More than just leveled homes, the calamity of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) resulted in a state of disorder in the badly-hit towns in the aftermath.
Adrian Ang, a resident of Palo, Leyte, shared his experience living in a post-Yolanda town. He and his family were fortunate to have survived the calamity, but then came the task of picking up the pieces. One day, he went to town to get some milk for his young niece when he saw locals collecting tanks of cooking gas washed up on the road and selling them.
Upon arriving at the local pharmacy, he went to the storage room to pick up a box of milk. In his sharing, Ang admitted to simply picking up the box and going home. And he wasn’t the only one thinking of such a thing. Many survivors at the time were driven to looting stores and malls in an effort to survive.
“While it's sad that [Haiyan] happened to us, we have to move on because it's not really the end,” Ang said in an interview.
Randy Militante, a resident of Tacloban City, admitted to joining in the widespread looting at the time. He helped pry open a local pharmacy for his fellow residents, all just as desperate to get by amidst the destruction. He barely enjoys talking about it, though, given that the pain comes back every time he recalls it.
“I know the feeling [of remembering Haiyan] will come back. But every time I talk about it, the pain gets less and less until it no longer hurts,” said Militante, now manage the Palo Great Love Village.
The two Yolanda survivors were among the 75 participants of the three-day English-language New Volunteers Training Camp at the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus. They shared their stories on the last day, March 31, in which Yolanda was the focus of the morning session.
A disaster-free world
The images of Tzu Chi in action following Yolanda, from the massive relief effort to rebuilding a local church in Tacloban, moved participants Aljon Almencion and Eric Rivera, coworkers at a Cebu-based company to donate to Tzu Chi Foundation for four years. But it was only in this training camp that they realized how far their support has reached.
“I remember my friend in Tacloban who received cash relief from Tzu Chi told me that Tzu Chi was one of the first to help in [post-Haiyan],” said Almencion, a native of Samar, who added that he was living in Negros Oriental when Yolanda struck.
“I realized now that this is how Tzu Chi spend our donations. They don't hold back when giving aid,” remarked Rivera.
On the afternoon of the second day, March 30, the participants were made aware of another calamity halfway across the world. Via videoconference from Taiwan, Tzu Chi volunteer Joe Chang talked about the situation in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. In early March, these countries bore the brunt of Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai, which left close to a thousand dead and millions more were left without basic necessities.
Chang and a multinational team of Tzu Chi volunteers would be flying to Africa to mount a concerted relief effort.
Asked if a “disaster-free world” is still possible amidst the worsening effects of climate change, Tzu Chi volunteer Monica Sy said it depends on the collective will of the people.
“A ‘disaster-free world’ depends on every human being. As Master said, we are all responsible for what's happening right now to our society, our environment, and our country. If [a disaster-free world] is being realized by all the people in the world, then I believe we can make this place a better place. We'll be able to make this a lesser-disaster country or world,” Sy said.
“Changing one person's habit is actually challenging in this lifetime. That is why we need to do things step by step. So we try to inspire one person, and then this person could inspire another person. Hopefully, by inspiring more people, we'll be able to achieve a disaster-free world,” she added.