Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nature of giving


A survivor carries water in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban, Leyte. AP Photo/Vincent Yu.
Natural disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons (or hurricanes in this part of the world) awaken the better angels in people almost everywhere. For whatever loss of life and property and other dire sufferings these disasters may have brought upon their victims, people opening their hearts and wallets in order to give will always share equal time and space in the retelling of the story and of how people helped others in the aftermath.
Super typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan) which hit the Philippines last Friday is a great example. This is not to forget or belittle the efforts of those who’ve helped victims of typhoons in years past. News and images on TV, print media and the Internet are enough to arouse people to understand and empathize with the victims.

Police line up bodies for processing in Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines. CNN photo.
Click link to view
"Typhoon Haiyan: Scenes of devastation, calls for help."
Giving and helping tell us that we all want to make the world a better place, despite of all the deaths, the losses and the destruction. People will rebuild from the ashes, if they need to. That’s the clear message we’re getting, no doubt about it.
Reading through social media, including Facebook, can make one sad, however. Despite all good intentions, there will still be those among us who would capitalize on the Yolanda wreckage to promote their personal agenda.
For some, this has become a prized opportunity for self-promotion, to put themselves back in the limelight and corner every chance to appear on TV to announce the laudable efforts they have launched to help the typhoon victims.

A survivor walks past a cargo ship washed ashored  by Typhoon Haiyan in
Tacloban, Leyte. AP Photo/Vincent Yu.
Still others would take advantage of this opportunity to further divide the community, such as the case in Toronto, for example, where the Filipino Canadian community is currently beset by a pestering internal strife among the local community press, with some reporting on the reporters and the personalities instead of on the issues and events that the community should be aware of. Rather than restoring civility in the community, this type of community journalism practised by some only makes us the butt of jokes and the laughing stock among Toronto’s visible minority.
What could be worse is when some people tell you to donate to them or to their organizations, instead of using the more tested and reliable international relief agencies such as the Red Cross, primarily due to their ideological distaste of these organizations, and because of issues of transparency, honesty, and whether the help really goes to the people who are in need.
The magnitude of Yolanda’s wrath and damage clearly shows the need for logistics, an effective organization, and available equipment to clean up the debris that currently block the path of relief agencies and workers. These agencies need to reach the victims first and foremost. Even the national government, with its entire military at its command, cannot handle Yolanda’s aftermath to the satisfaction of their critics and the people they intend to help.

A man sits crying on a packed aircraft in Tacloban. CNN photo.
So when some groups tell you not to give to the Red Cross, for example, because the organization is headed by a career politician, that kind of message not only dampens the enthusiasm of potential givers but also leaves a bitter taste to the act of helping itself. Instead of joining others in helping our poor and suffering compatriots, these individuals and the type of talk they spread dampen the collective relief efforts. They only politicize the act of helping others, and communicate a self-serving message that only through them, and no one else, can you help the victims of Yolanda.
This is the time to set aside political differences, whether you are from the right or left of the spectrum. The victims need help, and they don’t care where this is coming from.
This goes too for groups who are taking Yolanda’s destructive aftermath as a soap box to promote arguments that global warming or climate change is the main culprit and we should take immediate steps to restore earth to its original nature. While the argument may be valid, it loses its great appeal because it’s not the kind of talk that the people really need to know now. There is a time, and we should give ourselves that time, to debate on man’s profligate nature and habits for we cannot afford any longer to wreak havoc on the earth around us and bask in the knowledge that nature will continue to be benevolent to us.
The power of the people to give and to lend an extra hand to those in great need cannot be underestimated. It is during these times of disasters that we are tested. To care for others is part of our culture and nurture. But to ply our own agenda on how to give better, or where to give, and how we can achieve the greatest impact, we need not resort to negative messages but instead allow everyone the free will to go to what’s deepest in their hearts.

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