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Volunteers Launch Grassroots Effort to Aid Typhoon Victims

Much of the attention on the response to Typhoon Haiyan, which has destroyed many communities in the Philippines, is on the large-scale efforts by governments, foreign militaries and announcements from major humanitarian groups. While the survivors await the trickle of actual relief to expand, their fellow citizens in unscathed and more prosperous cities are trying to help.

A gymnasium of a government department has been transformed into the operations center for a grassroots relief effort named Operation Walangiwanan - meaning “no one gets left behind.”

VOA reporter Steve Herman is in the Philippines covering rescue and recovery efforts.

Across the central Philippines, hundreds of thousands of hungry and homeless are worrying that is precisely what has happened to them.

With anger rising in many of the worst-afflicted communities over the lack of relief, these volunteers are readying supplies - even though no one is sure when they will reach those in need.

As music plays an MC shouts encouragement to volunteers bagging cans of sardines, boxes of cookies, crackers, sausages, and juices, bottles of water and soy sauce, rations of rice and even clothing and sandals.

A youth group area coordinator, Joseph Nolasco, explains volunteers were quickly mobilized by social media. “Most of them are college students, call center agents, YP’s - young professionals - mothers, even out-of-school youth,” he said.

Volunteers have quickly filled a gymnasium with thousands of bags of desperately needed supplies that will probably be able to sustain typhoon survivors for only a couple of days. So the real demand is going to be for this sort of effort to continue for weeks, if not months.