‘Yolanda’ survivors partners more than dependents’ – priest

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Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines signs a tarpauline to symbolize his agreement with the newly-drafted Cebu City Declaration on disaster preparedness and community empowerment, Nov. 7, 2015. (Photo: Nirva Delacruz)

CEBU City, Nov. 9, 2015 – A Catholic priest who oversees the Church’s three-year “Yolanda” (international name; Haiyan) rehabilitation program has corrected what is often taken for granted: survivors are not mere aid recipients but active partners who have a say on how projects are carried out.

“From the very start, we have made it clear that we are not handing dole-outs. To prevent survivors from becoming dependent on assistance, we have come out with a mechanism called ‘sweat equity’ which ensures their involvement in the program every step of the way. This allows them to become our partners, not just beneficiaries,” said Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines, at a press conference held Saturday, Nov. 7, in Cebu.

Survivors as primary actors

The priest was in the Visayan city for the two-day Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) Summit, along with representatives of various Caritas Internationalis Member-Organizations (CIMOs), Diocesan Social Action Centers (DSACs), government agencies, and typhoon survivors, to exchange updates and discuss what more can be done two years after Yolanda.

According to Gariguez, they have made it clear to survivors that the projects cannot be finished without their participation given that the houses being built are theirs to own.

“At the end of the implementation of the program, whether it is WASH, shelter, or any secular intervention, we see to it that there is a considerable, significant degree of preparation that includes organizing the community to really take on the responsibility for themselves, to be able to implement the program for them and with them as the primary actors,” he explained.


Meanwhile, for Fr. Charles Louis Jayme, head of the Cebu Archdiocese’s Relief and Rehabilitation Unit (RRU), seconded Gariguez, noting that respect for the survivors’ capacity for decision is an important element.

“We are believers of dialogue and consultation. We consult the beneficiaries whom we [prefer to] call program partners. This allows us to discuss with them what else they need,” he said.

Jayme went on to share that requests survivors make include the usual livestock and seeds, especially among farmers, capital they can use to start small businesses like sari-sari store and candle-making, and others.

“No dole-out. We also provide training to those who want to learn new skills or how to expand their small business as well as the mechanism to sustain other means of livelihood,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)

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