What a year this has been. On top of the never-ending chain effect of the pandemic, we are now faced with the cataclysmic consequences of our environmental abuse. We watch helplessly as typhoon after typhoon ravage our country.
I am fortunate to have witnessed some Filipino youth in action. They may not do things the way we used to, but they are just as concerned and invested in the country’s state of affairs. On their own, they have created their own initiatives to help those impacted by the calamities and problems we are facing.
The Bicol Project
By Samantha Chan Sytin, 11, and Arwen Hansen, 11
What started as a project to help the victims of Typhoon “Rolly” in Bicol has become an effort to assist those who were affected by Typhoon “Ulysses” as well.
“When we heard about what was happening in Bicol, we wanted to help,” said Sam. “We knew that homes were destroyed and things were washed away so we thought of donating a set of blankets and towels because these could serve a dual purpose as beddings since it will take time for mattress donations to get to their area.”
Arwen added, “We saw so many videos of people swimming in dirty water, losing their homes and being stranded. Just imagine what these people have to go through. They have lost their homes and all of their belongings. This inspired us to put together a donation project where people could simply send P200 to us and we would be able to send one set of blanket and towel to someone in need.”The girls kept surpassing the goals they set. Initially, they bought 100 sets of blankets and towels but they received so more donations in just one day that they increased their goal to 500. As of press time, just a little over a week since they started, they’re at almost 1,500 sets and are now working their way to a new goal of 2,000 sets.
“Ever since I was a child, I always saw my family helping and donating when people are in need,” said Sam. “My parents (Rommel and Sandra Sytin) always made it a point that we get involved in helping, even in the smallest details of packing rice and canned goods in the donation box.”
Arwen said, “I was always taught to help the less fortunate no matter how hard it got for me. There is nothing better than seeing people smile.”
Donate through Gcash (09165437630) or BDO
(Samantha Sytin, 001430276833) @thebicolproject on Instagram; email [email protected]
Project Hawak Kamay
By Adriana Tan Zubiri, 12
“When I started Project Hawak Kamay, I wanted to raise funds to put together food bags for a community with 160 jeepney families in Marikina,” said Adriana. “Luckily, more people helped and after we reached our target for the Batibot Learning Center in Marikina, I still had enough for another round.”
Around this time, she saw the horrible flooding in Cagayan. “I decided to continue raising funds to buy more food bags for the people affected by the floods in Tuguegarao and other towns.”While watching the videos online, Adriana was struck by the faces of the people and the dire conditions they were in. “Seeing all the families and children losing their homes and lives, made me feel that I needed to reach out and do something to help them,” she said. “At the same time, my mom got a text message from our friend, Fr. Luis Lorenzo, talking about a community in Marikina. He shared a story and said that to survive this year and everything we are going through, we should all ‘hawak kamay’ (hold hands) with one another and with God.”
With this message in mind, Adriana got to work. “My parents always tell me to share my blessings because they are from God. Blessings are not meant for me alone, but for me to pass on to others. Also, before COVID, my mom always used to take me and my brothers to different communities on weekends where we would bring food and toys, or relief items in case there was a fire or a typhoon. I guess now I’m ready to think of my own ways to help as well,” she said.
Adriana created a digital flyer that included her plan of what to include inside each grocery eco bag. For the food bags meant for Cagayan Valley, she partnered with her school chaplain, Fr. Luis Felipe Villalobos, who was gathering donations from the school community. He brought Project Hawak Kamay’s food bags with more than 4,200 gift bags he was bringing to Cagayan Valley this past weekend.
Adriana is now preparing for a third round of donations. “I hope I can visit the communities we reached out to in the future, when everything is okay already.”
Donate through GCash (09175392566) or BDO (Maria Adriana Zubiri, 001450090077); @projecthawakkamay on Instagram.
Santi and Enzo Violago
Twins Santi and Enzo Violago-Tanjutco are always ready to do their part to help.
In between their studies and the many tasks they are handling for their respective YouTube channel, food business and quarantine website (lulus.best), they have also been continuously raising funds this year. They started by raising funds for personal protective equipment for public hospitals. Now, they said, “We are working with people in Cagayan, Catanduanes and Ateneo de Naga University to provide relief goods for the most damaged and affected areas of the recent typhoons.” The boys are no strangers to helping. Santi remembers packing relief goods for Tropical Storm “Ondoy” victims in 2009. “I was only 6 years old at the time but I like to think that my small effort of charity went a long way in aiding the victims of the typhoon because every action matters, no matter how little it may be.” “It was there where I first learned how to help those around me,” Enzo added.
When Typhoons “Rolly” and “Ulysses” hit, Santi felt that he “couldn’t stand to just watch and lay around at home while so many people were suffering. I realized I had the opportunity to help them through my own little way.”
Enzo felt the same way. “I didn’t want to sit around doing nothing. I was heartbroken to see all these people suffering and dying because of the typhoons and I wanted to help.”
Together, the twins have raised over P1,004,875.70 in cash and in kind donations. “We have sent over 1,300 relief packages to the victims of the typhoons, with more still to come,” they said. Donate through BDO
(Lorenzo Jose Ma V, Tanjutco, 0004440727553; tel. 0977-8050721; email [email protected]
2020 is the year that brought us the lockdown but also the year that taught us compassion and awakened our patriotism. While the lockdown has an age limit that restricts the youth, thankfully, compassion and patriotism are for all ages. INQ