Monday, December 18, 2006
It's such a joy to see a seemingly impossible task turn into a reality before your very eyes. Early today (it's just 4am as I'm writing this), I received a happy news from my friend Cathy, who started Thousand Bears for Bicol two weeks ago -- we have reached the thousand mark! Thank you everyone, who prayed with us and supported us in this endeavor. For those who want to help, contributions are still accepted. :-)
On Dec. 21, we'll be distributing the bears and their furry friends in different evacuation centers in Bicol. This is just be the beginning of a big work. Operation Compassion will soon start trauma debriefing in areas mostly affected by "Reming."
Still on TBB, an article came out in Manila Times yesterday:
A thousand bears for Bicol
By Andrea Lopez-Vito
IT ALL started as a personal crusade. But barely 10 days after making an appeal for support on her blog (www.nancydrewandme.blogspot.com), Cathy Babao-Guballa’s “Thousand Bears for Bicol (TBB)” campaign has almost reached its target—to gather at least 1,000 teddy bears and other “furry friends” for the children staying in typhoon-ravaged Bicol’s evacuation centers.
A grief counselor who lost a son a few years ago, Guballa got struck by a front-page photo taken by award-winning photographer Edwin Bacasmas. It showed a distraught father hugging his little child. They were standing in the midst of debris left by super typhoon “Reming,” presumably where their house used to be. Ironically, behind them majestically sits Mount Mayon—the cause of the massive destruction and loss of lives in Albay.
“One can only imagine the horrors of what the other families went through in those two days when the world seemed to be coming to a close. Bicolanos are staunch veterans of typhoons but this time around they have been badly battered and beaten,” Guballa notes in her December 3 blog entry.
“What does tomorrow hold for father and son?” she continues. “With all material possessions gone, they only have each other, and for now, that is all that matters.”
Guballa says that adults and children alike who lived through this kind of tragedy will definitely go through months of nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But in tragedies such as that wrought by super typhoon Reming, children are naturally the most affected. How will they ever feel safe again?
“Play and toys have been very effective tools in helping children heal from trauma and tragedy,” explains Guballa, who teaches at the Ateneo de Manila. “Stuffed toys have been known to be effective comfort givers in times of extreme stress and fear. To children, stuffed animals are more than toys, they’re imaginary friends who are always ready to give comfort or play. They provide a certain amount of security in a sometimes scary world.”
Taking off from this, Guballa appealed to her readers to help her raise at least a thousand bears, which she targets to distribute to children before Christmas. Amazingly, within three days, the first 100 bears came in mostly from friends and regular readers of her blog. The wonders of the net paved way for Guballa’s campaign to spread like wildfire. Friends and friends of friends either forwarded Guballa’s appeal or posted it in their own blogs. Support have since deluged with bears and other stuff toys of various colors continuously coming in. As of this writing, TBB has collected close to 600 not counting those in the drop-in centers.
In addition to the stuffed toys, fast-food chain KFC sent 500 care-bear pillows and 15 sacks of small cereal packs (100 pieces a sack).
Guballa then partnered with her home church, the Greenhills Christian Fellowship, and Operation Compassion, a Christian organization involved in relief and rehabilitation work. Operation Compassion has already distributed the first batch of bears in its medical mission in Legaspi City earlier this week.
More than relief work, however, Guballa envisions TBB to be “an exercise in watching the way God’s hand works and seeing how wonderful and awesome He is in His kindness and faithfulness toward all of us.”
“God cares for all the little children and is especially loving of widows and orphans. I know that through you, He cares for His children in Bicol,” Cathy adds in her blog.
How God put things together amazes Guballa no end. When word about TBB spread, friends far and near offered help. Filipino associations in Manitoba, Canada, and Sacramento, California, pledged to send over some bears. The Philippine Air Force through Col. Mike Asperin likewise volunteered to fly the toys and other stuff to Legaspi.
“I am amazed at the power of His hand when it moves the hearts of people everywhere,” says Cathy.
By December 21, she along with her husband Hector and several friends, will join Operation Compassion in distributing the toys to various evacuation centers in Legaspi, Daraga and Guinobatan. They also hope to raise funds to be able to throw a Christmas party for at least 1,000 kids.
The distribution of toys is part of the psychosocial therapy being conducted by Operation Compassion in partnership with the Ministerial Fellowship of Albay. Operation Compassion’s Rev. Dong Cucio says psychosocial therapy in disaster areas is inherent in its rehabilitation work.
The group has also been involved in rehabilitation work in Gen. Nakar and Infanta in Quezon, several areas in Aurora, Mindoro and Sorsogon provinces and Guinsaugon in Southern Leyte.
Indeed, TBB has yet become another testimony of the innate kindness of Filipinos.