Tuesday, 29 September 2009

I thought I knew something about

disaster and emergency situations. I still do. And I don't.
There has been a disaster in the Philippines. Manila was flooded. We sorted out some of the communication issues for the Philippines years ago. It is a disaster prone country. It is politically unstable. The geography, poverty and religious mix make it almost ungovernable. I know all those things. I know that there is a whole 'suburb' of people living, quite illegally, in one of the biggest cemeteries - and that they consider themselves fortunate to be living there. The authorities come along and send them away occasionally - but never for long. They have nowhere else to go.
I did communication assistance work for aid workers there thirty-four years ago. Nothing much has changed. What has changed is something quite different.
My mad cousin took her six children off to live in the slums of Manila for three months. They left on the 25th August. I wrote about it then.
Contact has been limited. I expected that. I expected it for two reasons. One is the difficulty of maintaining internet services from where they are. The other is that I know the situation would not be what they expected. Whatever they were told nothing could prepare them for the reality. I would not be prepared for the reality and I know more than they do, even now I know more than they do - and I know less. They would not be willing or able to admit the reality.
My father is worried, very worried. Every time the 'phone rings - will it be news of them? Have you had an e-mail? Are the children all right? He loves those children like his own grandchildren.

Chris, an aid worker in Manila, has contacted me. His parents were missionaries - after Chris and his sister grew up and were able to care for themselves. Chris knows the ropes. He knows the dangers. He is single. It is up to him whether he takes risks or not. He does not take unnecessary risks. I (virtually) know his team. None of them have children. Chris had been to the relevant embassies and checked his team in so that people would know they were still safe. There was no sign of my cousin or her brood. He says he will try again tomorrow if he has the time. He should not have to do this but he will do it.

Another friend is also teaching there. She lives in the centre of Manila. She is safe. Her students are safe. She is housing eight of them in her single room until the school dries out and they can go back. Like Chris, she is single. She knew what she was going to. She lived in the Philippines as a child.

I am always concerned for them. I am concerned for any number of other singles and couples I know who are doing the aid work most people never hear about. They take risks, calculated risks every day. They live in remote places, in harsh and dangerous conditions. They all have qualifications they are using to help local people help themselves. For them, being there is a good thing. They believe they are doing something positive, that it will make a difference. Often it does make a difference. It may be a small difference in overall terms but it can be a big difference to a small community. They understand that. They do not believe they can change the world, just help a community.

I think I understand that - and they do not have dependent children.


Rachel Fenton said...

"They do not believe they can change the world, just help a community"...and they don't make a song and dance about it either...these are the people who actually do make a difference, the ones we don't hear about.

I hope you have good news soon.

catdownunder said...

Thanks Rachel - we are still 'hanging in there'. I like the people who just go out and quietly get on with it!