St. Bernard, Southern Leyte , 28 February 2006. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) National Ambassador Gary Valenciano visited the more than 600 survivors of the landslide in Guinsagon, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte to observe UNICEF relief operations for the survivors.
“Love never fails. Love is present here. We are all practicing it at this time. I see children here supporting other children.”
“This is not the end,” he told some 33 orphaned children attending an arts workshop meant to help them deal with the tragedy at a designated child-friendly space in the evacuation center.
“Let us not lose hope. I came here to inspire people to take the next step,” he added.
The Child-Friendly Spaces provide activities for children such as storytelling sessions and drawing exercises as part of the psycho-social trauma recovery measures.
Twelve-year-old Armando Merin drew the devastation wrought by the landslide: lost lives and destroyed homes. In his drawing, he narrated how he saw his father die and other kids like himself. He also illustrated how he and his friend escaped sure death by running to a high ground.
Aside from interacting with the children and families in the Cristo Rey Regional High School, Valenciano and his wife Angeli distributed toys provided by UNICEF. The organization provided relief packs containing kitchen utensils, dinner ware, water jugs and children’s T-shirts for 700 people or 200 families. UNICEF is working with other non-government organizations (NGO) like the Christian Children’s Fund, World Vision, Plan International and Hope Worldwide in ensuring the protection of children in these evacuation sites.
Valenciano noted the heroism of the rescue teams, social workers, the military, NGO, and thanked the countries that extended help.
“The kind of work they do here is something else. They are the unsung heroes. Their rewards will be far-reaching, extending even to their families. The flags of the different nations are symbolic. When people from all over the world unite, they can soar with wings of their own.”
While Valenciano praised the efforts of the volunteers in the evacuation sites, he further called on the participation of people. “Love must also come from us. If you have that nudge in your heart, get involved and do something for these children. We must go the extra mile for them.”
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) cited instances where suspected recruiters have been seen milling about the evacuation sites and approaching children.
Valenciano reminded parents and guardians to course through the government agency representatives anything that pertains to their children’s welfare. “Please be very careful,” he cautioned, “There are people who take advantage of a tragedy such as this. They pretend to be the grandfather, grandmother or a relative of the child but they are not.”
Valenciano capped his one-day visit to the evacuation site by performing several of his most popular songs.
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