After spending the morning with Ester and WimWim, our volunteer coordinators at the Volunteer for the Visayans, it was time to get ready for the monthly distribution of supplies to the children in our program at the first of three affiliated sites in the Philippines I would be visiting during my time in Tacloban.
Located in the neighborhood of Bliss, VFV runs all of its citywide programs out of the same building where families also come to receive basic needs on a monthly basis.
We didn’t spend long traveling to the first site — in fact, all we had to do is walk downstairs from the office to the first floor of the building, and we had arrived! Located in the neighborhood of Bliss, VFV runs all of its citywide programs out of the same building where families also come to receive basic needs on a monthly basis and children come for the afternoon feeding program and tutoring support. The center also serves as the location where the volunteers with VFV come every morning to receive their assignments which include shopping for food, preparing meals, and helping feed the children each week.
Getting ready for distribution
Although the first floor of the center consists of only three small rooms — a front common area, a dining room, and a small kitchen — the space has been used very efficiently. Shelves lined the walls that were stocked with books, clothes, bags of rice, canned goods and other donations from the community. WimWim even showed me drawers filled with school supplies that had been built underneath the stairs to maximize storage, something I found to be so neat and creative.
As other staff members started to arrive just shortly before 2 pm, the energy on the first floor started to rise quickly. It was obvious everyone was well-trained in the process of the distributions and each person had their own tasks to perform. Ester began opening rice bags and unpacking boxes of soaps and nonperishable food items along folding tables near the front windows of the building. WimWim and another staff member took folding chairs outside and lined them along the narrow sidewalk. A tarp was tethered to the outside of the building, as locals always anticipated the possibility of rain.
Other staff went over spreadsheets that had been prepared with the name of each sponsored child and the list of items they would be receiving — everyone receives the same items and an equal amount each month, but VFV still keeps meticulous records on each individual child.
To increase the feeling of investment in the program for the families involved, it was expected that they bring their own reusable bags for rice, which had been made by VFV staff out of old vinyl and denim, as well as the egg crates they received during the last distribution to be refilled.
WimWim explained the importance of the structure that VFV has established over the many years they had been working in the community. WimWim herself has worked with the organization since 2005 — the same year the center opened in Bliss. She said they have had to learn a lot from trial and error about how to best support the community.
Even though life was tough for many families, struggling day to day to make ends meet, it truly did feel that all of them had found some bliss in this community.
She, having grown up in the area and currently living in the neighborhood herself with her husband and children, was very aware of how many families were living in poverty and really needed the help. But, she explained that, at the same time, she felt that when families don’t feel a connection with the center, then they don’t always remain consistent with participation, and that would cause issues.
The importance of sponsors
Sponsorship, as WimWim described, has always been a valuable means of keeping families involved with the center and making them feel a part of what VFV is doing to help. She said that not only do the sponsors ensure that the children have supplies on a regular basis, but it reminds them that someone cares about them, and that is powerful in showing families that there are ways out of the poverty in which they live. Additionally, thanks to VFV, families in Bliss can make a little extra income by offering to host their volunteers for a few weeks or a month at a time as a part of the center’s immersion program, which really increases their desire to be involved.
About 30 minutes after the staff started setting up, the children and the parents started to arrive, seating themselves outside, waiting patiently to be called into the center one at a time by Ester. I started to see how valuable it was for VFV to have this system in place — with more than 50 children to provide for in one afternoon, it took 2 ½ hours to get everyone their supplies, which would have taken so much longer if not for the process already in place.
Watching this well-oiled machine at work was a delight, and everyone seemed to be having a good time, as parents chatted with one another while waiting their turn, and children played with one another outside the center. Even though life was tough for many families, struggling day to day to make ends meet, it truly did feel that all of them had found some bliss in this community.
How do I sponsor a child in the Philippines?
You can sponsor a child in the Philippines in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in the Philippines that is available for sponsorship.