After Destruction, We See the Good

Apr 18, 2014

This post is by Toni Zuniga, program manager at Hands On Manila, part of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network.

hom.jpgToni Zuniga

In the last quarter of 2013, a series of natural disasters hit several parts of the Philippines, leaving thousands of people homeless and infrastructures worth millions of pesos destroyed. Although Hands On Manila didn’t specialize in volunteer management during disaster, we became one of the coordinating hubs after Typhoon Haiyan for people who wished to help either through donations or as relief volunteers.

Given the need and demand from the volunteers, it was natural for Hands On Manila – part of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network – to recalibrate to respond to disaster-related scenarios. 

Through the help of Points of Light, Hands On Manila was able to start incorporating volunteer management in the context of disaster through a weeklong immersion facilitated by Colleen Clay, Point of Light’s senior director of disaster services. We started with a workshop attended by Hands On Manila’s volunteer leaders (called Sherpas) and other partner organizations. We learned not only about the ABCs of disaster but also how to effectively manage volunteers before, during and after a disaster.

Colleen and I then flew to Bohol, one of the affected areas in the country, to meet potential local partners and visit some of the vulnerable sites.

Bohol experienced three major natural disasters last year: a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in October, Typhoon Haiyan in November and Typhoon Zoraida a few days after. Hands On Manila already had a relationship with some communities in Bohol through its Volunteer Vacations program, which aims to provide tourists with flexible volunteering and traveling opportunities in the Philippines. So we decided to pilot our disaster program in Bohol.

In line with our existing Hands On Schools program, which partners with public schools to help improve infrastructure, the disaster program will focus on rebuilding and reconstruction of select affected schools in Bohol.

After visiting Bohol, Colleen and the rest of the Hands On Manila team met with our partner corporations to give a preview of the disaster program. The response was very encouraging, as most of them see the value in allocating money and volunteers to the program.

Although we’re still developing the program, our entire team is inspired by the passion and dedication of our volunteers to help.