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Temporary but welcome helping hand

© UNICEF Philippines/2005/Bondoc
A family in Camarines Sur opens a pack of relief items from UNICEF.

These are stories
that touch our hearts,
keep us grounded
to what we have
always believed in ---
children have rights.

They are after all
our future.


By Dinna Louise C. Dayao
UNICEF helps families in the province of Camarines Sur
deal with the typhoon tragedy.

AT BOTH the Del Carmen and Tamban docks, residents young and old eagerly awaited the arrival of the relief goods. A festive atmosphere filled the air. They happily pitched in to bring the goods from the dock to the barangay halls, about a kilometer away.

Without a doubt, typhoons Unding and Yoyong affected the lives of all the residents of Barangays Del Carmen and Tamban, albeit in varying degrees. Luzviminda San Juan’s repairs on her storm-damaged house have so strained her finances that she could not afford to keep Arthur, her smart 12-year-old son, in school. Lilia Pacay supplements her family’s meals with cassava while waiting for her vegetable garden to bear fruit. And Magdalena Boranilla’s cracked toilet bowl, damaged during typhoon Yoyong in December, was still broken three months later.

The residents of Barangays Del Carmen and Tamban know that it would take more than a shipment of relief goods to make up for the natural disasters that have brought them much suffering. Still, for the moment, for folks who barely eke out a living by planting vegetables and coconuts or making charcoal, UNICEF’s relief goods were a godsend.

The actual relief distribution itself had the air of gravity of a formal ceremony. As the residents were called, they surrendered their claim stubs and signed their names on a master list. Some were clearly not used to writing and seemed embarrassed to be the center of momentary attention. A few waited with bated breath for their names to be called, fearful of not getting their share. Others seemed pensive, perhaps even a little sad, that they had to depend on the kindness of strangers for their most basic needs.

Yet all were grateful for UNICEF’s help. Pacay expressed this heartfelt appreciation well. When asked what she would tell the donors if she could meet them face to face, she replied, “Nagpapasalamat kami dahil kahit hindi nila kami nakikita ay bukas ang puso nila sa amin (We’re grateful that even if they don’t know us, they have opened their hearts to us).”

Soon, everyone had gotten their family packs and headed for home. Moments later, the breeze wafted the distinctive smell of dried fish, baking in the sun. Mung bean, sautéed in garlic and onions, with a little soup, simmered on stoves. Children happily tried on their new brightly colored T-shirts.

Everyone knew that the typhoons would come again, wreaking havoc on life and limb. For the moment, though, they were content to have warm food in their stomachs, nap on a mat with their loved ones, and say a little prayer that they had made it through the storms.

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