Tag Archives: crisis relief

doing it the right way

It’s a little after 1530 here in Cebu City. I know the date is Wednesday, 11/20/13 because I saw a local paper this morning. If not for that I honestly would not have a clue. Between 30 straight hours of travel, a 13 hour time difference, and a full 19 hour day yesterday…well, details tend to be a bit blurry.

What I do know is that I am so glad we are all here. I am so proud of our Stop Hunger Now team. And I am always totally energized by being in the field and seeing our partners in action. To simply state they do great work is totally insufficient. The work our partners are doing in response to Super Typhoon Haiyan is simply amazing. They are true heroes.

Yesterday, we left our hotel at 0430 to fly to Cebu. Once we checked into our hotel we were met by our wonderful Feed the Hungry partners. They graciously agreed to take us into the typhoon impacted areas.

Although time constraints and high winds prohibited us from seeing some of the most devastated areas, we toured northern Cebu for over ten hours trying to assess the extent of the devastation and to get a feel for the needs of the survivors. By the time we returned to Cebu City, had dinner and a final get together to wrap up the day, it was almost 2200 when I finally turned out the light.

Seeing the extent of the damage caused by this massive storm puts the news reports into perspective. According to the World Food Program, there are still over 2.5 million in desperate need of food. And during our journey yesterday we saw so many women, men and children, all with their hands outstretched. All of them were begging us to stop and give them food. That, however is only a small part of the real need.

The typhoon survivors also need shelter. Even when buildings and homes were not totally flattened, the roofs were peeled away like the skins of rotten oranges.

They need drinking water. Long lines waited wherever there was a truck caring clean water.

The survivors need power. Some regions have been told they might have electricity restored by Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas!

They need to have a way to earn a livelihood. Commercial fishing is never easy. It’s significantly more difficult if your boat is more splinters than solid wood.

Stop Hunger Now began as a crisis relief organization. For years now our approach to ending hunger has been far more strategic as we attempt systemic change. But crisis relief is in our DNA. And being here actively involved in responding to Super Typhoon Haiyan (also locally known as Typhoon Yolanda) feels right. We are making a difference far beyond just the value of our donations of food and other necessary relief supplies.

Our presence here demonstrates that we truly are partners, that we care, and that we will do whatever it takes to help the survivors recover from the recent horror. I might not know what day it is, but I definitely know that we are doing the right thing. And we are doing it in the right way.

little gestures mean a lot

Allen Renquist, Jordan Gurnesy and I arrived at our hotel here in Manila early this morning (a little after 1am) after 30+hours of nonstop travel. All of us were pleased to finally have a chance to get a hot shower and stretch out for even a short night’s sleep.

But what was really the most satisfying feeling for all three of us was just how easy it was to get all nine duffel bags of water filters through Philippines Customs. We were concerned, to say the least. We were bringing in 700 waters filters in our checked baggage. For those of you who might not have ever attempted such a feat…well, it’s a big deal. It could have been “nightmare quality” difficult.

First, packaging 700 water filters is no simple task. As I mentioned, nine very full duffel bags. Then transporting nine duffel bags of filters to the airport at 0530 in the morning takes teamwork. Checking in for an international flight always takes a little longer than checking in for domestic flights. Try it with nine over-sized duffel bags.

Even getting nine duffel bags of water filters and personal luggage from the conveyor belt to the customs checkpoint takes a fair bit of coordination–especially after 30 hours of flying.

But what made the process so rewarding is that during every step there was an amazing amount of help. Stop Hunger Now staff went above & beyond their normal excellent work to ensure the filters would make it to the Philippines. Then when Delta Airlines found out the duffel bags contained humanitarian relief supplies they graciously allowed us to check the additional bags at no cost.

When we arrived in the Philippines all three of us were immediately struck by the appreciation shown to us by the Philippines Immigration & Customs officials. Several times we were thanked by the officials for coming to help. It surprised us. I cannot ever remember an immigration official ever thanking me before.

And when we finally took our three carts of water filter-filled duffel bags to Customs the official asked us what was in the bags. We told her.  She didn’t open a single bag. She just stamped our customs forms, and then took the time to thank us for coming to the Philippines to help. What a great start to our time here.

It’s such little gestures that mean a lot, especially at one in the morning.

Super Typhoon Haiyon

Last Thursday, the Stop Hunger Board was in its annual retreat when Allen mentioned we were already monitoring the situation in the Philippines and that various staff were already beginning to plan our response.  From then until now we have not slowed down.

Stop Hunger Now has been in full crisis response mode for the past week. Already over a million meals have been shipped or will shortly leave the US for the Philippines. One full container (285,000 meals) has already left California and another hundred thousand meals are being airlifted from Kansas City. Other containers are scheduled to leave early next week.

Working with our strategic partner, Wine to Water, we are providing 1100 Sawyer water filters. Each of these filters have the capacity of providing over 275 gallons of clean water a day.We are also sending high energy bars, medicine, medical supplies and other donated relief supplies.

Stop Hunger Now Malaysia is sending another quarter of a million meals. And they are gearing up to provide more.

But the most exciting facet of our response is that our wonderful partners in the Philippines are going to hold a special packaging event in Manila next week where volunteers will package another 120,000 meals for their countrymen in the area of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyon. Providing the opportunity for Filipinos to help provide life-saving meals is powerful in so many ways.

Tomorrow morning Allen Renquist and I will fly to the Philippines to coordinate our immediate relief efforts with our partners, assess the extent of the damage, and plan for Stop Hunger Now’s continuing response to this tragedy. We will be joined by Jordon Gurnsey, a close friend and supporter of our efforts, and Tiki Keh, our Stop Hunger Now Malaysia Director.

We will try to post on a regular basis to share stories and photos, so stay tuned for more detailed reports of our trip.