A Recipe for Readiness

 Sarah Thompson head shotSarah Thompson, Communications Manager

Save the Children, USA

November 26, 2013

Basting turkeys, mashing potatoes, tossing salads…. Hours and hours go into that one delectable Thanksgiving meal shared with family and friends. Yet, when it comes to protecting the people we cherish most, can we say we’ve taken the same time to prepare?

Luckily, the holiday season provides great opportunities to take on emergency planning.  Take some time while the family’s all together to make a family emergency plan. You’ll be thankful you did.

6 Reasons Why the Holidays Make Emergency Planning Easy

1)    Family Time: Finally, a holiday break from crazy work and school schedules.  What better time to talk over different emergency scenarios, contacts and meeting locations with your kids. It will help them understand what to do and feel safe. Having trouble squeezing it in? Talk during the car ride to Grandma’s or during meal preparation, while every family member is present.

2)    The Big Game: If you’re watching the big football game you’re already in game-plan mode. Build off that team spirit and make planning fun. Give each child a nickname and create codenames for different parts of your emergency plan.  Then write it down and post it where all family members can find it, just like a playbook.

3)    Greeting Cards: We send friends holiday cards filled with well wishes and photos showing just how much the little ones have sprouted.  While you’re at it, create or update an ID card for each child. Include medication and allergy information, a current photo and emergency contact numbers and emails. Then share the cards with teachers and child care providers.

4)    Visitors: Whether your family is traveling or inviting company to your home turf, the holidays are the perfect time to identify your out-of-town emergency contact. This person can serve as a satellite if an emergency shuts down local communications and help your family reunite.  Have kids practice calling out-of-town contacts to wish them a happy holiday.

5)    Holiday Shopping:  Whether you’re buying a turkey and all the fixings or trying to hunt down that perfect gift for your kid, chances are you’ll be doing some shopping. While you’re out, stock up on key emergency supplies, including water and food for each family member, flashlights, batteries and a radio. Don’t forget kid-friendly items like diapers, fruit snacks and child-strength medications.

6)    An Annual Reminder: The best part about the holidays is that they happen every year! If you start associating emergency preparedness with the season you’ll be reminded to update and practice your plan every year.  Make emergency preparedness a family tradition.

Planning for emergencies doesn’t have to be overwhelming or rushed.  A little planning now can go a long way in protecting your family if disaster ever strikes.    Save the Children’s family emergency checklist can help you every step of the way.

Tis the season to Get Ready, Get Safe!

For the Love of Children: Volunteer Community School Teacher in Lufwanyama

Agnes Zalila, Sponsorship Manager

 Agnes Zalila, Sponsorship Manager

Save the Children, Zambia

November 18, 2013

One would think that for you to teach others you must have been to a teachers college, received a certificate or a diploma and are employed by either the government or private sector. This is an ideal situation. But this is not so for many “teachers” in developing countries where thousands of children need education, yet do not have enough qualified, trained teachers.

 

Giliart at a teacher trainingThat’s why community members like Gilliart Soft Kanguye decided to volunteer their time and be the teachers these children need. They spend 5 days a week teaching, in most cases working with over 100 children of different grade levels to prepare them for a better future. They are not paid, but give their service for the love of children and their community.

 

Gilliart is one of the 50 community members who volunteered to help provide education to the thousands of children in Lufwanyama who do not have the privilege of being in a government school. He went up to grade 9 in school, but would also love to upgrade his own education.

 

With the coming of the Sponsorship program, these volunteer teachers have begun to see hope and a Joseph Mbelneg with some the children he teacheslasting change for the future of the children they teach as they receive simple training to equip them to better provide an education to the children. In the past six months, Save the Children trained 36 teachers from Lufwanyama in the use of “New Break through to Literacy” (NBTL) and equipped these teachers with materials. The program has also indentified 12 teachers who will be attending training sessions so they can upgrade their teaching skills. The Sponsorship program is also in the process of providing library and other reading materials for the children in the 20 schools to promote literacy.

 

The community school teachers appreciate the support for the schools and look forward to further training. Asked why they spend so much time working for the community, Gillart says, “for the love of the children and to give them a better future and opportunity than I had.”

 

“With the coming of the Save the Children, I know we will excel and provide a better education for the children,” he continues. “I have begun to hear about other people who want to join in becoming volunteers as we are being trained and improving on our status and the community now respects us even more.” 

 

 

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Aid Workers: The Logistics Guy

 


Anonymous_blogEvan Schuurman, Media Officer

Philippines

November 25, 2013

 


 

When it comes to aid workers responding to mass disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, there isn’t much sexy about being the logistics guy.

But when you need to get stuff done, he makes it happen.

 

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Steve Wells

Seasoned aid worker Steve Wells manages the vital role in Save the Children’s rapid response team, which was deployed to Roxas on the island of Panay, one of the worst affected areas in the Philippines.

Steve sourced vehicles for our assessment of the northeast coastline, organised a makeshift office with wifi in a town with no power, and arranged for plane after plane transporting aid to come to the island.

He booked trucks and recruited staff for the distribution, planning every intricate detail to ensure the delivery could happen.

“It’s all well and good to have funds to provide relief in emergencies, but if you can’t make those donations work given the situation on the ground, there’s no point,” he said.

“For me, when I come to a scene of devastation like the one we found in Panay, it’s about making connections with the people who can help you out. They are incredible assets when you aren’t familiar with a place.

“We also want to source as much of our materials and products locally to support the local economy and get more bang for our buck, while making sure not to undermine the local economy.”

Steve works late into the night at the humanitarian coordination centre he helped to set up, and which is based in the provincial office building. He cooperates with other organisations about sharing resources or to get advice.

More often than not however, they are looking to him for guidance.

Steve’s been in the ‘logs’ business for almost a decade, having been deployed all over the world including to Sri Lanka for the tsunami and civil war, to Pakistan during the floods and to Mali during the famine.

Here in Panay, he’s the one that gets stuff done.

“Sourcing and distributing emergency kits in a disaster like this one is a complicated process and there are a lot of people involved,” he said. 66935scr_addf9f69a61f310

“Here in Panay, once we set up our base, we’ve been able to transport aid onto the island from various parts of the Philippines, find a warehouse to store the kits and recruit volunteers and staff to help with mass distributions.

“It’s all about making sure we provide the aid as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible to meet the needs of thousands of vulnerable families.”

Lending a Dollar in a City of Diamonds

 

After a weekend in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I traveled to see a Save the Children program in Mbuji Mayi, a city about 600 miles into the interior of the country. On my way to the office, I was amazed by the number of diamond trading outlets along the main streets. Diamond mining is big business but the people who mine them—oftentimes children—receive very little pay in exchange for the gems that people will pay thousands for around the world.

The diamond business is a glaring contrast to the widespread poverty most families face in the DRC. The majority of the population lack access to basic services, with more than half of the population living on less than a dollar a day. In addition, relentless conflict has nearly destroyed the country’s infrastructure and economy in the east. The existence of rich natural resources in

On the Streets of Kinshasa, Finding the Path Back to Childhood

Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is as busy a place as any in the world. There are swarms of people, crowded streets and traffic jams. The streets of Kinshasa are always bustling—but for a child growing up on the streets, it is one of the toughest places I have seen for anything resembling a happy childhood. So Save the Children is working in Kinshasa to strengthen family and community networks to prevent family separation caused when families are too poor to support their kids and provide assistance to children in need.

 

When I traveled to DRC earlier this month I met Exancé, a 13 year-old boy who calls the Kinshasa streets home. Exancé had been expelled from his family when his parent’s marriage failed—not an uncommon occurrence. The break-up of his family led him to a secluded courtyard by a city marketplace, where he begged for food from traders or money from passing motorists. He was hungry, withdrawn and so far removed from the life that a 13 year-old should have. But thanks to a local merchant who volunteers for Save the Children to identify at-risk street children, was placed in a safe place to live—a transitional center run by a local partner—and have a chance to reclaim some of the sense of childhood that he lost. Best of all, the world to try to reconnect him to his parents would begin.

 

Exancé is one of the lucky ones, and safe accommodation may make all the difference. At one such residential center for young boys, Centre BanayaPoverda, I met Gabriel—a 15 year-old whose story is very much a parallel to Exancé’s. When his father remarried after the death of his mother, he was beaten and kicked out of the house with no other option than to join the

“Nothing for the winter”: Syrian refugees already feeling the cold in Egypt

Meg-Pruce

 

Meg Pruce, Information and Communications Officer

Save the Children, Egypt Emergency Response

November 15, 2013

 


This week has been the first time I have felt the cold since arriving in Egypt six weeks ago. My morning walk to work now feels noticeably autumnal – however much the palm trees along the way might make you think otherwise. Thankfully my ‘just in case’ attitude to packing means I have a nice warm jumper I can put on during the chillier nights. From my conversations with Syrian refugee families and children, however, it is clear that many of them do not have this luxury.

 

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Ali*, aged three, takes a look at the adult and baby winter blankets being distributed by Save the Children and local partner staff

“We thought that we would only stay three months, and we came in the summer so we didn’t bring any thick clothes”, Osman* tells me during my visit to one of Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces, where Syrian refugee children can play and share their experiences in a safe environment. Osman is thirteen years old and lives in an underprivileged area of Greater Cairo. His family came with enough savings to stay temporarily, but as the conflict in Syria drags on, this money has now dried up and Osman’s family remains displaced. He tells me that it started getting cold two weeks ago, and what they really need are heaters for their home. Even with his two brothers working, however, the family are struggling to pay the rent – leaving little money for the winter items they need.

 

Osman’s story is echoed by Rana*, aged twelve, who I meet in another area of Cairo where many Syrian refugees have settled. Last winter, Rana’s family simply stayed inside as much as they could. This year, they remain unprepared for the upcoming colder months. Describing her current home, Rana tells me “there is nothing for the winter”. All they brought from Syria were some blankets, she says. Neither of her parents work, so they cannot afford to buy warmer clothes for Rana and her brothers and sisters. Rana explains that their Syrian neighbours are having similar problems: they arrived without anything for winter – not expecting Egypt to be cold – and have no money to buy what they need. 

 

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Syrian children receiving their blankets from Save the Children. Save the Children are distributing adult and baby blankets to 1865 vulnerable Syrian refugees to help protect them during Egypt’s colder winter months.

Save the Children has already distributed adult and baby winter blankets in the two areas I visited, helping to protect 1865 vulnerable Syria refugees against the cold. While people’s situations are similar, it was also made clear to me that each family has specific needs depending on their circumstances, which is why we are tailoring our plans to provide freedom of choice. We are looking into using a flexible voucher system so that people can buy the non-food items (NFIs) which best suit their family. This way, whether it is a room heater, carpets or cosy clothes that people need, they can decide for themselves.

 

After hearing the children’s experiences, it gets me thinking about winter in Egypt. The country certainly doesn’t have a reputation for needing to wrap up warm, and the winters are a lot milder than in many countries within the Syrian region. However, handling the colder months is all about preparation and having the right resources. Not knowing how long they will stay for when they flee their country, many refugees simply do not have a choice.

 

*Names have been changed to protect identity

 

Click here to donate to support our work for Syria's Children

Losing & Gaining Humanity: A first-hand account on my mission to Tacloban, Leyte

Edwin photo

 

Edwin Horca, Save the Children

Tacloban, Philippines

November 10-13, 2013

During the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda Friday the 8th, I experienced a level of uneasy and concern I rarely do. I wasn’t in the most affected areas but still I couldn’t sleep. I told myself that it was just another typhoon. Aside from the fact that I had a team of colleagues in Tacloban, I was equally concerned about my family and relatives in Leyte.  No news on Saturday. This was already raising my adrenalin and I knew that we needed to act fast. I decided to go to Leyte with a colleague and what I saw and found affected my emotions, my spirit and professional mission as a humanitarian worker.

Day 1: Into Darkness

The trip to Ormoc on Leyte Island via fast craft was the first step. On the trip to Ormoc passengers were already organizing themselves into groups and identifying who to go with to Tacloban for security and safety purposes. Docking into Ormoc, you get an eerie feeling and my heart was pounding. It was a city in darkness. Going with the group suddenly fizzled out. Road was inaccessible to medium and large vehicles. We took the ‘habal-habal’ a motorbike ride to Jaro, Leyte were my family live.  My heart was pounding. I wanted to know if my father was ok. I wept quietly and embraced him when he came out and saw him. It was one flicker of hope against the darkness of evil and destruction. As daylight struck we saw the destruction brought by Yolanda. I immediately started working.

Day 2: Flicker of Hope

On the second day of our journey we stopped by in Palo and the stench of death was in the air. A mass grave within the church grounds was made and 60 unidentified bodies were laid to rest.  We met one of our team members who is from Palo and was glad to see that he and his family were ok. We planned our entry to Tacloban. Since we were short on fuel, only one motorbike was available. I told Allan to look into possibilities of getting fuel in Palo while I head out into Tacloban. Our objective was to provide much needed food and supplies to the team in Tacloban city. I also wanted to know how my brother and family were doing.

IMG_4613As we drew closer to Tacloban the damage was staggering and the stench of death stronger. There were a lot of people roaming in the streets, people looting Robinsons and the commercial store beside it. There were police and military but they were spread thin along the highway and could do nothing. I tried to search for my brother. The landmarks were gone. It made it more difficult to find their place. I walked inside side streets where mud and electric posts and wire blocked the road. Finally I located my brother alive and well. It was a heartwarming embrace with the whole family and I was ever thankful that they were safe and we started to plan their exit from the destroyed city. Since transport is a problem they decided to exit Tacloban the next day and take their chances in riding the C130 in Tacloban airport. They would have to walk all the way to the airport, several kilometers among debris and bodies, and bring the little food and water left that they could gather. But it was better than to stay.

Next up I had to connect and find out how the team was doing. I knew where they were before the typhoon hit and I found them in good spirits. And part of the team had already moved towards the city center to gather information. The mission goes on. Another flicker of hope amidst a city of destruction and death…

I did a few rounds in the city and the sight was gruesome. The city was like a ghost town. There were few people clustered here and there.  Warehouses and stores looted. Children huddled together while their parents tried to look for food and wash their clothes. There were small distributions of relief led by the military. While other warehouses were looted, I saw an owner of a warehouse doing distribution of relief. I also saw a volunteer from the department of health going around the side streets handing out basic medicines to those in need. The city I once knew as vivid and lively was no more. I had to head back to Palo due to a declared curfew. My driver and companion Rommel was getting scared because it was already getting dark. We wanted to maintain mobility and ensure our safety as well.

Day 3: Regaining Humanity

On my way back to Ormoc my mind was rushing and plotting out strategies on how to expedite our relief to these affected areas. I somehow must have lost humanity on my way to Tacloban. But on my return I also regained it. How? It’s dealing with the situation one day at a time. It’s doing what we can with what we have. It is knowing that we are not alone at this time of strife. It is seeing so many people both local and foreign rushing to help and do their part. It is also knowing that we belong to a family – the Save the Children family where members and supporters around the world are one with us in these dark hours. It is also knowing that media plays a critical role at this time. Our appreciation and thanks to all especially to those who chose to do what they can instead of being enmeshed into bickering and entering into the blaming game.

While the community fiber & spirit may be broken by the storm, it is still the goodness and resilience of humanity that shines. 

Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan’s Children Relief Fund

 

Growing Desperation across Tacloban City for affected Children and their Families

Edwin photo

 

Edwin Horca, Save the Children

Tacloban, Philippines

November 14, 2013

 


Desperation is the only word I have to describe the scenes I witness in Tacloban. I was originally born in Tacloban and went back there as part of Save the Children’s emergency response team. It was hard for me to go back to my home town knowing there had been a disaster and what made it worse is that I may have lost relatives and have no information on their whereabouts.

 

The situation in Tacloban is desperate. Children and their families affected by the world’s largest storm on Friday morning have now gone five days without sufficient food and water as well as adequate shelter and medical supplies.

 

Desperation triggered looting as people go into survival mode. It is now rampant, and could compromise the movement of relief supplies and the safety of aid workers. Around the city, children have been asked to join the looting movement.

 

I saw children huddled over their few remaining possessions. Others just stare blankly ahead, their eyes telling a story of horror and hopelessness. Resilient as they are, the situation is becoming increasingly overwhelming for a population with no respite.

 

SavetheChildren_Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan

Photo Credit: Save the Children / Lester Joseph R. Valencia

Save the Children has been on the ground since Friday; and over the past six days it has been extremely challenging to reach affected children and their families. We are beginning some children’s activities to allow children to play with one another and just be children again. But the mobilization of bulky relief items remains a core problem.

 

Desperate to look for alternative routes, I travelled more than 60 miles yesterday but roads are only accessible by motorbikes and on foot. The area is still strewn with electrical posts, trees and other debris and need to be cleared urgently if we are to deliver relief goods to the hundreds of thousands that need it desperately. Local officials are scrambling to support this relief effort, but many are also working round the clock in these extremely harsh conditions.

 

Yet the world has not come to grips with the sheer magnitude of this disaster. Aid efforts are now focused on small but heavily populated areas and we still have a long way to go. The needs are also great in inland areas that we have not been able to reach, and in the coming days Save the Children will be working to ensure that children affected in the storm receive the support that they need. 

 

Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan’s Children Relief Fund

 

Typhoon Haiyan: Cut Off from the Rest of the World






Anonymous_blog

Lynette Lyn, Asia Communications Manager

Tacloban, Philippines

November 10, 2013


It started at 5:30am. Strong winds and heavy rains – seemed
manageable at first, but after an hour of constant pounding, I knew something
was about to give way.

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All four sides of this building in the Department of
Education compound were hit – after the glass windows broke on one side, all
six staff from Save the Children including myself evacuated to the next, and
then next, until we found ourselves in our final safe room.

What more for the children in less sturdy buildings than
this one, with the relentless pounding of rain, zinc roofs blowing in the sky
and branches swept all around them? At the height of the storm’s prowess, the
only thing I could see was the tree about to crash through the window while
hoping that the ceiling would not fall on us.

We were texting information and taking media interviews, but
before we knew it the cell reception was cut. And then, the radio signals went
silent.

This is what it feels like to be cut off from the rest of
the world.

 

Peering out the window after the storm passed, the area
around looked completely flattened. Like the tornados that struck Moore in
Oklahoma earlier this year, but with the added element of metre-high
floodwaters.

 
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As I write this at 12:30pm, still no information is flowing
as there are no communications lines. But we know that the storm we’ve just
seen must have brought about severe damage and destruction, and possibly the
loss of many lives.

To make things worse, the storm may have passed us but it is
headed straight to Bohol, where hundreds of thousands of children are living in
temporary shelters, tents and tarpaulin following last month’s earthquake.
Definitely unsafe for a storm of this magnitude.

The next few days will help determine the extent of the
damage, needs and fatalities. Save the Children will be working round the clock
to reach the worst-affected children and their families.

Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan’s Children Relief Fund