ORMOC CITY -- After Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck, local civic groups were among the first to help survivors in Ormoc City.

With the devastation too massive for the government to address alone, volunteers went out to do their share, distributing relief goods, rebuilding houses and providing livelihood opportunities to the survivors.

Civic groups in Ormoc sought help, largely through social media, and sent their members to shattered communities to find out the needs of the residents.

The Rotary Club of Ormoc, the Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay, the Ormoc Supreme Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club of Geo-Ormoc and Ormoc Sugar Planters Association (Ospa) were among the local organizations that responded.

Assistance

Aside from giving basic necessities like food and water and providing shelter materials, the groups also distributed materials for livelihood, such as motorized bancas for fishermen.

The Rotary Club of Ormoc had 46 boats built for fishermen in Ormoc and the neighboring towns of Albuera, Baybay and Palompon. They also provided the beneficiaries with fishing nets.

The Ormoc Supreme Lions Club also gave boats and fishing nets. They also distributed sewing machines to help families who lost their livelihood start over.

The Kiwanis Club of Geo-Ormoc distributed boats and engines as well.

For their part, the Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay gave rolling stores and taught families urban gardening and hog-raising.

The group also partnered with Rotary Club Liberty Texas to help provide housing materials to homeless families.

Dubbed “iRebuild a Home,” the project aims to help around 200 families rebuild their homes.

The groups did not limit their humanitarian efforts in Ormoc. They also went to Tacloban City, a two-hour ride from Ormoc, despite difficulties in transporting goods during the first few days after the typhoon.

“The logistics was a nightmare sometimes,” said Jens Kruska of the Ormoc Supreme Lions Club, which received donations from other countries, including Malaysia and Turkey.

Priorities

The civic groups reported their accomplishments to reporters during a conference they organized with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) in Ormoc last Friday.

Troy Bumagat, president of the Rotary Club of Ormoc, said they attended cluster meetings with the City Government and international humanitarian organizations to make sure all communities were covered and duplications avoided.

Although Ormoc has shown resilience, lawyer and Ospa president Iñaki Larrazabal Jr. said help from the government and private donors need to be sustained.

“We still really need a lot of help,” said Larrazabal, who led the humanitarian efforts of the private sector in Ormoc.

He thanked Rafi for supporting rebuilding efforts in the city.

Rafi is helping rehabilitate the Ospa Training Center by providing materials amounting to almost P1.6 million.

The center, established in 2006, gives an opportunity to sugarcane farmer and their families to learn technical and vocational skills.

As the city recovers from Yolanda, Larrazabal’s son Iñigo, former president of the Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay and Ormoc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the people, especially public officials, should keep in mind what they’ve learned from the experience.

Lessons learned

“We should not forget the lessons from the typhoon,” he said.

The older Larrazabal said the experience showed the importance of properly assessing the needs of disaster victims, to avoid sending the wrong supplies.

He also underscored the importance of putting in place emergency employment programs immediately so survivors would not depend on doleouts.

Dr. Rodette Arevalo, secretary of the Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay, said the government and the private sector should help raise awareness on disaster preparedness in the communities.

“The communities should know their vulnerabilities,” she said. “And it is important to promote resilience.”