In-Country Volunteers and RPCVs in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan
By Patricia Sullivan on Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Last Friday the Philippines experienced the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the region. The disaster has affected over 10 million people, leaving a total of 673,042 displaced, and, according to President Benigno Aquino III, resulting in a death toll of about 2,000 to 2,500 people.
Two hundred and twenty-three Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) were serving in the country when the typhoon struck. On Monday Peace Corps headquarters announced that all Volunteers were safe and accounted for.
According to the same Peace Corps press release, Volunteers in the Philippines are “working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Manila and the Philippines government, as well as the international relief organizations on the ground, and will continue to monitor conditions throughout the Philippines.”
Earlier today, the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Brian Goldbeck tweeted: “Inspired by @PeaceCorps volunteer who returned to Leyte w/ @usembassymanila team, using language skills to assist those in need.”
Stories about these Volunteers are slowly being reported, such as the whereabouts of Fairport, NY, resident and PCV, 24-year-old Andrew Wynne. According to a recent article on Rochesterhomepage.net, Andrew is stationed in the Bicol Region in Southeast Luzon, about 200 miles away from the area hardest hit. (Another story about Andrew can be read at rochester.ynn.com.)
“You want to be able to do more for these people and you can’t,” Andrew said. “There’s a lack of communication, a lack of food, a lot has been cut off and we’re not able to get down on the ground level.”
Though prospects of reaching the areas hit hardest are currently slim for in-country Volunteers, hundreds of Philippines PCVs, like Minnesotan Bryna Rabehl, have been helping to assemble relief packages for victims in those areas from a center in the country’s capital of Manila according to KTTC.com.
Andrew, Bryna, and others like them, are doing all they can to help, but there is a need for outside emergency relief as well. Where PCVs in-country are limited, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) are ready to step in.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: “I’d be there in a heartbeat…”
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Board Member Stephen P. Groff served in the Philippines from 1987 to 1989. He is also Vice-President (Operations 2) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and currently based in Manila. He reports that the ADB will provide $23 million in grants to the area as of yesterday, and that the ADB stands ready to provide a $500 million loan to help reconstruct the devastated communities in the aftermath of Haiyan.
Others who served in the Philippines are watching and waiting from afar. A Philippines RPCV shared on a group listserv:
Her recommendation: “Donate Money.”
The Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development (PCAFPD) — an NPCA member group which over the years has helped over 150 Filipinos compete their educations — has called a meeting of its board members this Sunday, and “will have an opportunity to plan a response,” said PCAFPD Database Manager Sarah McMeans (Cebu, 1962-1964). “We have been in touch with our Philippine-based board members and expect to learn about the fate of our scholars and graduates as soon as they are able to contact them. We’ll be in touch as soon as we know more than what we are learning from the media.”
Typhoon Haiyan has left millions of people in disarray, but there is no doubt that the Peace Corps community will soon be able to play a greater role in rebuilding.
“Red Cross, Catholic Relief Service, World Vision, Oxfam, Plan, Save the Children, etc. are also involved and are certainly worthy partners (along with many others),” says Groff. ”As with all such emergencies, unrestricted cash donations are preferred to anything else.”
Update – 6:51 pm 11/14/13
Peace Corps has just posted with some additional information on how to support Philippine Disaster Relief Efforts following Typhoon Haiyan.