Saturday, November 8, 2014

Queer response to twin disasters

When the magnitude 7.2 Bohol earthquake shook parts of Central Visayas on October 15, 2013, and twenty-four days later, followed by super-typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) whose unequaled strength pummeled a significant portion of the Visayas group of  islands, communities’ were drastically redrawn and millions of lives were shattered and lost.  

The seemingly eternal consequential effect (alarmingly, World Health Organization -- WHO --  released a statement stating 800,000 people with mental health conditions due to typhoon Haiyan) becomes more pronouced because of governments ineptitude that compounded the economic marginalization and social deprivations of the most vulnerable regions in the country. 

To add insult to the already buergeoning suffering of mostly farm workers, peasants and fisherfolks communities affected, government keep on trumpeting the so-called resiliency of survivors as if it will unburden them from the clutches of abject poverty and neglect which they apparently experienced even before the monster typhoon wiped-out their shanties. 

Resiliency, no matter how grand the word is, should be look at from the context of economic capacity of individuals, familes and communities – before, during and after – of every calamitous events. Rather than from the inherent nature of man to survive in the midst of disasters. Individuals, families and communities can only be resilient if their participation in community affairs is democratized and respected and their access to economic opportunities unhampered and sustainable. 

A rainbow in somebody’s cloud

As a response, various local, including our organization, and international organizations poured their limited resources to help the millions affected, because somehow, to paraphrase Maya Angelou’s eternal words, we want to be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud, every time there is a chance. 

The Bohol earthquake, said to be the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in more than two decades, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), reported 222 dead, 8 missing, and injured 976 people; and destroyed more than 73,000 structures of which more than 14,500 were totally destroyed.

Given the limitation of our resources, we partnered with STAND alumni foundation – a student political party at the University of San Carlos – and conducted relief operations in select areas in the province of Bohol. Our relief operations would not have been possible without the many help of the following: Asilo de la Milagrosa run by the Daughters of Charity for giving us space to use in packing goods. Carolinian students, through the Society of Young Business Entrepreneurs (SYBEE), also offered whatever they have, including time, to assist the packaging and as well as the distribution.

Super-typhoon Yolanda, on the other hand, caused cataclysmic damage throughout the Visayan islands, consequently wiped-out not just lives of the most vulnerable sectors and classes, but also towns and cities. 
NDRRMC confirmed 6,300 fatalities across the country, 5,877 of those taking place in the Eastern Visayas. The actual death toll remains unclear; some said it reached more than 30,000; at least 10,000 victims from Tacloban City, Leyte alone. Red Cross estimated that 22,000 people were missing.

Faith-based partnership

Responding to the challenges of an unfriendly time and circumstances, we partnered with Redemptorist Center for Social and Ecological Concerns (REMSEC) of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, three days after Yolanda destroyed whatever was left to our brothers and sisters in affected Visayan islands.
Various organizations and individuals from different corners of the world supported and contributed significantly to our relief operations in three barangays in northern Leyte. We are forever grateful for their trust.

Unite and protect the children

Disaster risk reduction

Five months before the anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan, series of meetings were held to implement a child and adolescent centered disaster risk reduction, initiated by Alternative to Development (A2D Project), a research group for alternatives to development and a non-stock non-profit organization upon the prodding of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Philippines. 

The meetings resulted in a project titled: “Strengthening Capacities for a Child-Centered Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in the Municipalities of Bantayan and DaanBantayan in the Aftermath of Haiyan.” 

This project will be implemented by A2D Project—Research Group for Alternatives to Development Inc.,in partnership with Bisdak Pride Inc. (BPI) and the Regional Center of Expertise-Cebu (RCE-Cebu).
The project is a good opportunity to facilitate capacity-building of affected municipalities and introduce a child-centered disaster risk management approach.  

Fully aware of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the project will contribute to integrating child participation in all aspects of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. More specifically, a child’s right to survival, to protection, to clean water and sanitation, to food, to health and to education will be highlighted.

In concrete terms, the project seeks to undertake in the next 12 months institutional capacity development, including the promotion of safer schools and the mobilization of out-of-school youth for disaster risk reduction.

Communications for development
Last October 24-27, 2014, Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) partnered with our organization a human rights group for persons with different sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and trained almost twenty advocates for gender equality, especially those affected and survived super-typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) for a Theater Forum in Bantayan Nature and Eco Resort, municipality of Bantayan, Cebu. 

As the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of thePhilippines, TP maintains its highest standards in artistic discipline, technical skill and professional conduct. They focus not only in honing skills for onstage performance, but also in developing an active audience through use and nurture of the native language as its primary medium for its productions and by bringing performances to various parts of the country in partnership with several institutions such as World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

TP has been involved with various United Nations agencies, notably WHO and UNICEF for various developmental undertakings. They are once again partnering with UNICEF with its Theaterfor Development in a Post Haiyan Context.  For this project, we are glad that TP is collaborating with us to mount and perform a 30 minute play (with theme of DisasterRisk Reduction, Child Protection and Adolescent Health & Sex) using  Theater Forum, an interactive theatre form,  in several affected communities throughout theVisayas region.

As a human rights organization, whose membership includes a significant portion of marginalized young adolescents affected by Haiyan, we are confident that we can contribute, in whatever way for the realization of this project since the issues are directly in-line with our commitment and advocacy.  And even before typhoon Yolanda altered the northern Cebu towns, our organization already conducted developmental activities for the betterment of local communities.

Looking forward

By first quarter of 2015, we will be launching a conference, "The Haiyan Aftermath: Listening to and Understanding the Unheard LGBT Voices in the Haiyan (Yolanda) Affected Communities in the Visayas." 
And in the process, we hope to generate views and finding out the impact of typhoon Haiyan and position LGBT communities in the Visayas on climate change adaptation (CA) and disaster risk reduction and management  (DRRM) and create LGBT advocates as champions and communicators for CA and DRR. 

Because we want CA and DRR part of all development plans.  

The pioneering undertaking is funded by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), a human rights organization powered by grassroots collaboration. 

For several decades and in more than a dozen countries throughout the world, UUSC fosters social justice and works toward a world free from oppression. UUSC’s innovative approaches and measurable impact are grounded in the moral belief that all people have inherent power, dignity, and rights. 

We also hope to implement a sports therapy for young adolescents, in partnership with a football club based in Manila to highlight our summer program for the youth. 

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