Working alongside communities in the Philippines

11 Feb 2014   |   Blog   |   Philippines   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  Paul O'Callaghan, typhoon haiyan, Emergency relief   |   No comments

Caritas Australia's CEO, Paul O’Callaghan, reflects on his visit to communities devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Paul O'Callaghan with children in the Philippines

The nature of Caritas Australia’s role in responding to Typhoon Haiyan was summed up to our visiting delegation this week by Sister Mapeth, a Daughters of Charity leader in Northern Cebu, when she said: "You came to be with us in our dark hour and worked alongside rather than treating us as victims. This meant a great deal to our people."

Each day of this visit we were humbled by the gracious expressions of thanks, and the depth of shared faith among our Filipino partners and the people with whom we are working in the field.

During our visit, we had the good fortune to spend a day with Sr Paula, the remarkable leader of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, in a slum of 30,000 people in Quezon City near Manila. Based on her eight year relationship with Caritas Australia, Sr Paula told our delegation, "We truly value Caritas Australia as a trusted and respectful partner. Your people truly know who we are and what we are seeking to achieve. This means so much to us in our work."

As we finished this week long visit, Archbishop Philip Wilson (Chair of Caritas Australia) and I felt reassured of one crucial thing. The direct feedback we heard bore witness that, in both the typhoon response and in our long term partnerships, our partners in the Philippines regard our Caritas teams as being true to the Caritas vision - in being with them on this challenging journey, rather than imposing upon them.

This visit has also left me wonderfully inspired by our Filipino partners and others. Not only did they express great appreciation for our Caritas Australia partnership with them, but their faith- filled positivity and inspirational role within their communities, amidst the tragedy, was something to behold.

You came to be with us in our dark hour and worked alongside rather than treating us as victims. This meant a great deal to our people."
Sr Mapeth

Sadly, the Philippines will undoubtedly face regular natural disasters over the coming years. All the national Church leaders whom we met recognise that a future typhoon of this scale could strike major population centres, unlike this one. If this occurs, potentially hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost.

For Caritas Australia this means continuing to nurture the valuable relationships we have, and to contribute as best we can in critical programs such as disaster risk reduction and child protection. We will explore ways of enhancing these areas of work over coming months.

Though I have visited the Philippines many times before, the experience this week was a special one. It reinforced how much we are engaged with our partners in a mutual journey of faith. We learn so much from our partners when we embark on this work. I am sure that, hearing the many comments from our Filipino partners this week, you too will feel that Caritas Australia is remaining true to its mission and achieving significant impact.

Paul O'Callaghan was part of the Caritas Australia delegation visiting the Philippines to review Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts. The delegation also comprised of Caritas Australia Chairman, Archbishop Philip Wilson, and Head of Humanitarian Emergencies Group, Melville Fernandez.

Related links:

Caritas Australia's Typhoon Haiyan Aid Response
Blog: We Grow Stronger - Three months on from Typhoon Haiyan (7 Feb 2014)
Blog: On the ground in the Philippines (5 Feb 2014)

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