The first day for the Davao Cash for Work Cleanup Drive started early on the 4th of September. It was a memorable and an eye-opening experience for both 36 Tzu Chi volunteers and staff from different parts of the Philippines and residents of Purok 62 Barangay Talomo alike.
It was early on the fourth of September that Tzu Chi Volunteers from all over the Philippines come together for the first day of the Cash for Work Cleanup Drive in Davao.
Gathering at the entrance of Purok 62 of Barangay Talomo Proper, the 36 volunteers happily march in a single file toward the open area where the assembled residents await them. The residents greet them all enthusiastically, some of the children and younger residents curiously join and watch from afar.
Davao volunteers led by Nelson Chua brought volunteers from Manila: Michael Siao, James Chua and also Joven Uy from Bohol. Tzu Chi team introduce themselves and explain their purpose in the area. Despite technical difficulties, the team were heartily applauded by the residents.
The residents who were then able and willing to work registered their names and divide themselves into ten in a group with one of them as block leader. A total of 529 people registered. Each block was given a wheelbarrow, shovels, and gloves and then they all head to work.
It was a daunting task as the mud and debris caked the roads and even filled the insides of houses. Each team began hauling trash out of homes and pile them unto the roads. Then they segregate the piles of mud, trash, and debris into sections for easier access of wheelbarrows and shovels that the heavy equipment like bulldozers and dump trucks provided by Tzu Chi Davao volunteer Nelson Chua can easily take.
Barangay Captain, Engineer Bendor Calamba visits the site near lunch break. He says, “This is a great boon, with the help of the heavy equipment, the big trucks and even the volunteers and organizers of the Tzu Chi foundation themselves here. It has lessened some of their discouragement in life, especially with what happened right now. We did not know that there is a foundation like this which come to help in places devastated by disasters. Usually, people automatically turn to the city government through their City Social Development Offices and the national government through the department of social workers and development offices. They’re the only ones we think of when we ask for assistance.
This is a really a great help; they get to eat, they are able to clean their area, they also get a livelihood through the Cash for Work Program of the Tzu Chi Foundation. From the bottom of our hearts, from the barangay officials, including me, the Barangay Captain of Talomo Proper, thank you so much for the help we received, Tzu Chi Foundation. I hope that you will be able to assist more individuals and communities that will need your aid. May you receive many blessings in all your endeavors and God bless you, Tzu Chi Foundation.”
Lunch was provided by a team of the female residents supervised by some of the Tzu Chi volunteers of Davao. Each block lined in twos and brought their own containers for the food before going back to work.
By the quick action of the Tzu Chi Volunteers and the residents, the roads began to be clear of debris as bulldozers and other heavy equipment came in to clear the area.
Eduardo Fernandez, a resident hard at work exclaims; “Right now, here we are doing bayanihan; we are helping each other. This a great thing; We get to clean and we get paid too! We’ve been at this for five hours. Before we started cleaning, it was so muddy and things were strewn about everywhere. We didn’t know what to do. We’re really thankful to Tzu Chi for the assistance!”
As the day winds down, one of the volunteers, Kirk Ong, remarks; “The people here are very cooperative and they are very kind. You can see the teamwork in this calamity so right now things are fast. They are halfway through their cleaning even if one of the bulldozers have broken down. They became their own bulldozer.” When asked what he felt when he first saw the place, “I was really awestruck that the calamity was this severe here. The flood level here was very high and there was an area where one house was carried by the river and then hit eight other houses in the process. You can see that their situation is very dire. The fact that they are helping each other is very good. At this time, we need to follow up a bit. Their electricity was cut off, they don’t get enough rest. They need supplies and clothes. They need a livelihood to return to their daily lives. I can see that this area is near the river. It is a delta, that is why it floods easily. Although there’s a canal, but it needs to be cleaned and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.” He then cheerfully adds, “I think it’s going well. Hopefully, by tomorrow, they will be able to repair their own house.”
At 4:00 pm, the tired town folk gathered to receive their cash assistance. Before that, the Tzu Chi team leads a prayer and sign language song dedicated to the residents.
Vice CEO James Chua then gives a surprise announcement. Each of the participants of the drive are to receive 1000 PHP or 20 USDs to the joy of the residents. After distributing that aid in front of the participants themselves, the team then quickly headed to Davao City Hall where they are greeted by Incumbent Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte. The Tzu Chi team then explain the purpose of their drive to him and his team and after giving his approval and a few pictures taken, the team retire to prepare for the next day.