Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Toy Drive For the Traumatized Children of Yolanda

One of my favorite episodes from the old Oprah Winfrey Show was when her whole staff and crew together with Oprah had visited South Africa for the first time where they brought along tailor fit shoes, toys and dolls for  50,000 children who had never received any gift in their lives. When it was time for the kids to open their presents, the cheers of happiness and excitement were overwhelming that even Oprah could not contain her own tears. It was a trip that had been made a few months before Christmas but had touched Oprah in so many ways that she adopted ten children who had no family nor relatives to take care of them, an experience that she described as the best Christmas she ever had. 

When I read a Yahoo article by Thea Alberto-Masakayan early this morning, I again remembered all the devastated people that was hit by Typhoon Yolanda. Men, women and children who lost  everything. I chose not to watch the news on TV because no matter how true it is, it still gets in to your psyche, making you stop for a minute while eating, heading for work or walking your way home. I know that at this age of social media, one can pretend to be blind or deaf but a historical catastrophe such as Yolanda will be heard and talked about anywhere especially at work where some colleagues hail from the affected areas whose families and their conditions are still unheard of until now. You cannot help but tear inside especially if your think of the young children who have witnessed everything and the trauma that will probably haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Here in the Philippines, fund drives, donation boxes and the spirit of volunteerism again can be seen and felt anywhere you go. From schools, churches, malls, offices and especially the social media. In fact a colleague who just learned about his family's whereabouts is now on his way home, bringing with him relief goods and donations, both in cash and in kind so he could fly to Tacloban faster because his parents need their maintenance immediately especially during this trying times. Advocacy groups are also doing their share so that relief goods can be distributed as soon as possible. And though it is a given that food, water, clothes and medicine are top priorities, the power of a hug cannot be under estimated and might even help the trauma felt by the children. Since every kid deserves all the comfort they could get in times like this, the Advocacy group 1000Bearhugs has set up a toy drive to help the traumatized children of Yolanda recover faster.

How The Advocacy Started

It all started when Cathy Baboa initiated the sending of stuff toys and teddy bears in December 2011, when Typhoon Sendong devastated Cagayan De Oro. I will never forget that incident because a female colleague lost both parents including her home and spent her very first tragic Christmas by herself. Since then, the 1000Bearhugs had sent out toys to typhoon wreck areas like Bicol and in conflict zones like Zamboanga. Mon Corpuz of the Black Pencil Project, who now heads the toy drive for traumatized children of Yolanda said that they were able to transport the toys to the disaster areas through the help of military personnel and local non-government organizations. He also noted that the organization does not accept cash donations, barbie dolls, battery-operated toys and toy guns. He added that the movement does not only give away toys but includes facilitation of psychosocial therapies through the help of volunteers.

How You Can Help

The 1000Bearhugs will be accepting new and pre cleaned huggable stuff toys and teddy bears until December 8 where the toys will be brought to typhoon-afflicted communities in Leyte, Panay and Bohol in time for Christmas. If you want to join the toy drive, check the nearest drop off points here. Now if you want to organize your own toy drive area, you can download the toy drive kit here .You can also send an email to 1000bearhugs@gmail.com or call (63)917 7961 378 and look for Mon.

Every kid deserves to have a huggable toy, whether given or hand me down. Children who have seen and witnessed a tragic catastrophe like Typhoon Yolanda will always remember the horrible experience of seeing it all. My only prayer is that they may learn to survive and overcome the scars of such nightmare in their lives, enough for them to move on. I also hope that one day they will again learn how to smile, laugh and see the world in the eyes of a child. With every huggable toy given, a child's pain is lessen. And with every smile seen in a child's face the minute a huggable toy is received, an undeniable, happiness is felt. Compassion after all is universal, so is pain, emptiness and hope.

I just wished that whatever we have witnessed, felt and experienced with Typhoon Yolanda and its aftermath will remain in history and stay there forever, never to haunt us again.


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