UU Church of the Philippines and Typhoon Haiyan

By Eric Cherry


Update, Monday November 17, 0013: Reaching Out to Survivors in the Philippines In the week since a super typhoon devastated parts of the Philippines, UUSC and the UUA have sprung into action with the generous support of donors to the UUSC-UUA Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund. As relief efforts are put into motion, collaboration with new and established partners on the ground is vital in delivering aid with dignity and justice. UUSC is working with and providing financial support to the following grassroots organizations to make sure that people living in society’s margins aren’t excluded from assistance: • The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines, which is doing direct relief work in communities where people have lost crops, homes, and livelihoods • IBON International, a long-term UUSC partner, which is working with the Citizen’s Disaster Response Center to identify and bring much-needed support to people most marginalized by the mainstream relief efforts • The National Rural Women Coalition, which, with a wide network of community-based organizations of farmers and fisherpeople throughout the islands, is exceptionally well positioned to identify needs and assist survivors in recuperation of food security and livelihoods UUSC is deploying appropriate staff to make further recommendations. Over the coming days and weeks, staff will be deepening collaboration with the organizations mentioned above as well as developing additional partnerships to serve people being overlooked in the midst of the challenging and sometimes chaotic logistics of relief work. For example, while many urban areas are now receiving aid, people living in rural areas are still in desperate need of food, shelter, and water. Organizations with established ties to these people are key in making sure everyone has access to assistance. As it works closely with partners in the Philippines, UUSC is employing its own lessons learned and models created with partners in response to disasters in other parts of the world. Based on its work in Haiti, UUSC has developed training for making home vegetable gardens grown in recycled containers. Plans are already under way for a pilot program on the ground in the Philippines in conjunction with local partners. In Haiti, this innovative project has already proven to be a huge success in fostering self-sufficiency, food sovereignty, and income generation. There, old tires are used to create planters that are safe for growing food — and the gardens are a powerful symbol of hope, renewal, and growth. UUSC is also drawing on a longstanding partnership with the Trauma Resource Institute (TRI) to address the more invisible effects of a disaster like Typhoon Haiyan. Trauma recovery is a vital component of overall recovery, but mental health services are almost always overlooked by traditional aid agencies in the aftermath of a disaster. Together with UUSC, TRI will be introducing body-based techniques to heal trauma and training a cadre of social workers and community leaders who work with the most marginalized survivors. A similar successful program in Haiti — as well as in Darfur, Somalia, and Kenya — not only helped individuals and communities get back on their feet but gave them skills to build long-term resiliency to future trauma. As these programs get started, UUSC and the UUA will continue to work closely with Filipino colleagues to assist with ongoing on-the-ground assessments of need and identification of grassroots partners supporting access to aid for people not being reached by traditional relief efforts. To support survivors of the typhoon, please donate today to the UUSC-UUA Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund. Update, Monday, November 10, 2013: UUSC President Rev. Bill Schulz and UUA President Rev. Peter Morales have issued a joint statement in response to devastation of Typhoon Haiyan:
As images of the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan has wrought in the Philippines fill the media, we are coming to see the enormity of the humanitarian disaster. The photographs and videos are heartbreaking. As compassionate people, our thoughts turn immediately to how we might help. Our concern is intensified by the special historic connections Unitarians and Universalists have with the Philippines. We have UU congregations in Manila and on the island of Negros. UUSC has an environmental justice partner, IBON. Early reports indicate that our UU brothers and sisters escaped the worst of the storm. For millions of others, the need for relief is desperate. The UUA and UUSC are launching a joint special appeal for Philippine relief efforts. As is our practice with international disaster relief, UUSC will take the lead in distributing funds where they can do the most good, targeting contributions toward those most marginalized. Please be generous.
Donate to the UUSC/UUA Joint Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund. A Reflection in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan Update, Sunday, November 9, 2013: from Rev. Tet Gallardo, Minister of the Bicutan Unitarian Church (Manila)  "UU Philippines needs to help out. Personally, I’ve asked my core team of 8 people and plan to take my charge of 70 people to help pack relief goods in a military center close to work. I hope our labors are brought to the right people and go to the victims, many of whom are already suicidal, according to radio reports. Other reports say that a whole evacuation center (gymnasium) was suddenly flooded with a storm surge within seconds and drowned everyone in it. A journalist has seen a vehicle rise in the air and get slammed onto a building --- something we have not experienced. We ask you all to send what you can. I will personally make sure o let your help reach victims even if I have to go there myself to Tacloban when all the hype and news have gone down and we can be the follow-through." Originally posted on Saturday, November 8, 2013:  The devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, especially to communities in Leyte Province, have been immense. The UU Service Committees is monitoring the situation and will provide additional information as the crisis becomes clearer. The news from the leaders of the UU Church of the Philippines following the arrival of Typhoon Haiyan has been very hopeful. The immediate damage on Negros Island - where the majority of UU congregations are - has been minimal, though not insignificant. Rev. Rebecca Sienes, President of the UUCP, sent the following message: "Super typhoon Yolanda just hit us in Negros! We are fine, but as of this writing I heard of farm products were damaged such as bananas and coconut trees were damaged; rice paddies were buried by rain and mud, a rice paddies of one member from Kalomboyan was damaged through a landslide. The UUCP's trees in Nataban were damaged also, so on Tuesday, I will go there to determine on what to do with the trees. In our mango farm in Nagbinlod, some of the baby mango fruits have fallen on the ground because of the strong wind, but there will still a good number left. Our churches in the northern Negros, e.g. Canlaon, Nataban, Ulay, Benejiwan are hit by the typhoon. I will be visiting Nataban on Tuesday, so I should be able to know if there are still other damages, and I will get back to you. The weather bureau reported that there are still 4 storms coming in before the end of 2013. This is for now, Thanks, Rebecca" Please look for additional updates as reports come in.

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


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