Monday, 28 July 2014

Story of a typhoon Haiyan survivor.

Her name is Anatalia M. Cabrera, 68 years old, singled-female household who was born on December 1, 1945 in Brgy. Poblacion, Tolosa, Leyte. She is popularly known as “Mana Tayang” in the locals and has been a resident of Tolosa for most of her existence. She is the 3rd child amongst 4 children of a farmer, Mr. Eleuterio and housewife, Mrs. Angela Cabrera.  Growing up to them was not that much easy, Anatalia was not born with a silver platter or a golden spoon instead came from humble beginnings and had her fair share with hurdles in life. She came from a poor family, “there are days that we are broke and something to eat was scarce”, as she recalls.
Anatalia had troubles in schooling. She admits she was not on top of the class and don’t have much interest in getting an education which entirely affected by financial capability of her family.
At the age of 18, her mother got sick and was diagnosed with tuberculosis which needs a continuous medication for 6 months. It was one of the turning point where they had to work extra hard to earn for a living. As to his father, he tries to make both ends meet. By the age of 24 which Anatalia was still on her secondary education, her mother died. Three years later, her father died because of beriberi disease which left them as orphans. Anatalia had gone through everyday struggles to survive since all her siblings have built their own families thereafter. 
At the age of 27, she was forced to work away from Tolosa to look for a better source of living. She worked in Manila as a residential cook for 3 years and at the same time sends herself to College. Portion of her salary goes for expenses of schooling and some became her savings. She was a self supporting student but was not able to finish College due to financial constraints.
After working in Manila, she went back to Tolosa to settle. All her savings was spent for the improvement of the house left by her parents which she happily accomplished the construction of her latrine and kitchen. She started to put up a small variety store which sells cooked and raw vegetables. Sometimes she also sells candies and other goodies outside a primary school. It was her typical activities of everyday living. On the year 2012, Anatalia joined an organization called Bayanihan which was composed of 12 members and their main objective was to generate livelihood for their members through buy and sell of rice grains.
Anatalia is also a devout and been active in Church activities such as Catechism, in fact she is part of a Church group called Catechumenate which conducts religious and values education in some schools. 
To date, she is now an elderly living alone and her neighbors became the major support systems in times of hardships or needing help like during disasters.

                                                                                                    Few days prior to the disaster, news started to emerge regarding the birth of Typhoon Haiyan or locally named as Typhoon Yolanda. At first, Anatalia did not felt any urgency and threat to the typhoon because Philippines had been through such a lot though can’t help to sense a containable mild level of anxiety. Additionally, she recalled, “There was still a fine weather, mostly sunny and seldom raindrops. No hints the typhoon can be bad as it was”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              On November 6, 2013, news started to be more serious and persistent in advisory for the forecast strength and foreseeable devastation that the typhoon can bring. At this point, Anatalia has thought of the potential grievous effect of the upcoming typhoon.
             On November 7, 2013, Anatalia visited the Church, asked for guidance and protection from the Typhoon Haiyan. Did confession and prayed the rosary fervently. She also prepared clothes, foods and other necessary things she might need during any emergency situations.
                                                                                                                                             On November 8, 2013, at around 1am in the morning, strong winds start to blow in until 5am and Anatalia had still prepared to go to Church. By 6am, winds became stronger and zero visibility on the area. She knew that the worse has now started, thus she was helpless and all she did was pray. At the height of typhoon, Anatalia was asked to evacuate her house and went to her distant neighbor’s house. She went out of the house with a blanket overhead and carrying the emergency bag that she prepared. Unfortunately, the house also was wrecked by the typhoon. Anatalia was even hit by a stone on the head from the raging wrath of the typhoon. They had to hide underneath the sink until the typhoon pass. Afterwards, they transferred to another house. Anatalia was not able to take breakfast and lunch but was not also feeling any gist of hunger. By noon, she went to see her house and found that it was severely destroyed. All she could find was torn parts of her house and broken bricks. It was a heartbreaking moment for her, she was left with nothing. Nevertheless, she never loses hopes. She prayed for wisdom that she may be able to accept the aftermath situation.
                                                              She stayed in her distant relative for a week. At that time, no electricity, no source of communication and no open stores to buy for foods. They were all dependent to given reliefs from different organizations for her to survive everyday. Fortunately, there was assistance provided to her like tarpaulin and construction materials that helped in building a makeshift room for her to stay. A week after, she started cleaning her area.
              She joined a cash-for-work program, where they had to clean particular areas of the town. Activities include sweeping roads and disposing garbage. Her earnings were spent in the labor cost of making a better room for living. The room built was not enough to protect her from the cold weather and heavy rains.
                             By the month of April 2014, the Red Cross started its shelter project intervention in the Municipality of Tolosa. She underwent the process of house assessment, interviews, revalidation and others. Fortunately, she was picked to be the very first core shelter beneficiary of the shelter project. For her, it is a huge blessing and an ultimate gift that she couldn’t ask for more. It has far exceeded her expectations on the help she could get. Provided by Spanish Red Cross who worked with the Philippine Red Cross in building this home.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Solve personal problems, and then you build capacities

For more than 30 years I have been coaching and training people with the underlying theme that 70% of what we do in the workplace is relationship management and we as leaders or workers, have to change if they want to lead change. A lot of what we do in Red Cross and Red Crescent is capacity building, and to do this effectively, we have to deal with people's personal problems. I really clicked with this recent article by Rick James which I share below.

Making it personal

According to research by Harvard University[1], 85 per cent of the reason people get a job, keep it, and move ahead in it has to do with people skills. Only 15 per cent is because of their technical ability. Yet many of us in the NGO sector have reduced capacity building to a technical intervention. We have ignored the element of personal change, perhaps because it may be more complicated and even threatening. But the fact is, if people and relationships do not change, there can be no capacity building.
Woman and reflection in glassI remember working with a group of consultants in Africa. They were discussing a dilemma they often found in their capacity building work – they were having to spend extra time helping people deal with personal issues the process was bringing up. On reflection, they decided that this was not actually a distraction, but in fact their core business. They decided to build more time for personal issues into their work.
In my own organisational development work, I usually get asked in to solve a problem at a level below the person asking me. If it is the leader, then the problem is to do with staff… or so I’m usually told at the beginning.
I have often tried to follow Robert Quinn, who writes: ‘When I discuss the leadership of organisational change with executives I usually go to the place they least expect. The bottom line is that they cannot change the organisation unless they first change themselves.’[2]
Change is not an easy thing for anyone. It involves giving up past ways of behaving that may have become comfortable. Change requires letting go, not just taking on the new. As human beings, we naturally resist letting go. Yet if we hope to build capacity and bring about organisational change, then we have to help people within organisations to change on an individual and personal level.
People aren’t always willing to change. A while back I was facilitating an event to resolve board-staff tensions at an NGO. Communication was an obvious issue but the board in particular was unwilling to explore some of the differences in values and attitudes that were the cause of the communication breakdown. It would have required board members to confront themselves and each other at a deep level. In the end they kept it to safe, superficial statements of intent to communicate more, leaving the underlying issue unchanged. Unsurprisingly the tension persisted.
I have found that taking a more personal approach to change often involves:
  • Engaging people’s emotions, not just their rational, cerebral selves. It’s often necessary to bring emotions to the surface to provide the energy and even anxiety needed for change. 
  • Creating opportunities for people to hear negative feedback in a context where they feel psychologically safe enough to react constructively rather than simply defensively.
  • Working with cultural norms. For example, what is appropriate feedback is highly culturally relative. I need to find out what feedback is tolerable in a particular context. In many countries any confrontation must be done gently and privately. As one African colleague said to me, ‘In all my interventions I find I have to give leadership feedback that they have stopped getting from staff. This often entails us going for walks in the forest together.’
  • Engaging with the spiritual beliefs that underpin people’s values and sense of self and which therefore affect how they behave. Successive studies[3] have found that faith and religion are central to the worldview of the majority of people in Africa and Asia. People’s spiritual beliefs may be the most powerful and important lever for change. Inspiring Change and Creating Space for Grace provide plenty of examples for how this might be done in a church context. Even in a secular context, it is still important to give people space to connect with their conscience, intuition or deeper selves.  
  • Taking it personally myself. If I have the audacity to engage with the personal dimension to change, especially in other cultures, I have to know myself, my own biases and baggage intimately.
Though not without its technical elements, capacity building is not a mechanical process. First and foremost it is a process of human change. This is personal, emotional, and I believe it is also spiritual. If capacity building is to make a difference, people have to take it personally.

[1] Ziglar, Zig (1986), Top Performance, Baker Book House Company
[2] Quinn, R. (2000), Change the World: How Ordinary People can Accomplish Extraordinary Results, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p106
[3] Narayan, D. (2000) ‘Voices of the Poor: Can Anyone Hear Us?’ Washington OUP, World Bank; Marshall, K and Keough, L. (Eds.)(2004), Mind, Heart and Soul in the Fight Against Poverty, Washington DC: The World Bank; Commission for Africa (2005) ‘Our Common Interest: Report of the Commission for Africa’, March; Barron, M. (2007) ‘The Role of Pastoral Care in Development – is it really development?’, IMU Report, March-May

Image credit: 'Soul Searching' by gaspi *yg, via Flickr. Used under creative commons licensing.
Capacity Building blog series by Rick James
  1. Calling our bluff on capacity building
  2. Cultivating capacity: Returning to first principles
  3. Obsessed by assessment tools
  4. It's (almost) all about leadership
  5. Cultivating character in capacity building
  6. Cultivating trust in partnerships


DAMAGED: Gardiner Hut on Mt Cook was hit by an avalance.

Gardiner Hut was one I stayed in a number of times  and was saddened to see if hit by an avalanches. With the top falling off Aoraki Mount Cook in 1991, nowhere is really safe in our alps.
Gardiner Hut on Mt Cook
AVALANCHE TRAIL: The Gardiner Hut has nearly disappeared under the debris.
A large and "very rare" avalanche has engulfed a climber's hut on Mount Cook Aoraki.
New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton said it appeared that no one was injured in the large rockfall, which may have happened at night.
"The rockfall covers a very, very big area,'' he said. "Rockfalls like this are very rare and hardly ever approach this size. This one is big.'' 
The rockfall happened on the South Ridge, or Hillary Ridge, of the mountain and swept down Noeline Glacier and over Pudding Rock, where the Gardiner Hut sits. It was reported by a pilot yesterday.
Photographs show the tin hut, which can sleep about eight people, engulfed in small rocks and moved off its foundations.
The rockfall is the third to strike the area in the last 18 months.
There was one on the other side of South Ridge near Ball Pass and another near Mount Haast.
DOC said there were no records of visitors to the area at the time of the avalanche and aerial investigations did not indicate anyone had been caught in the incident.
The hut was in a remote spot, used only by experienced alpine climbers.
DOC services manager Mike Davies said following a helicopter inspection it was working with GNS Science to assess the stability of the area before a more detailed investigation of damage.
Until then, people were asked to keep out of the Noeline Glacier region of the upper Hooker valley.
The Hooker Track is unaffected.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Time Machine: A Capitol Christmas 2009

Time Machine: A Capitol Christmas 2009

T’was the night before Christmas:
All year through the House
And the Senate you’d find
Not a smidgen of nous.
Were there a machine
That detected IQ,
One could run it a month,
Then return it as new.

Except for one person
Asleep in a corner,
A government watchman
Named Ermingard Horner,
Who woke up abruptly
And pointed her Glock
At a fat man who stood
By the grandfather clock.

“Drop em!” she said.
He replied with a quake,
“Dearie me! Do you want
“All the presents to break?”
As she patted him down,
She concluded, right quick,
The nocturnal intruder,
In fact, was Saint Nick.

But inside his bag
Was no football, no ring,
Nor a toy nor a doll
Or new video thing,
Just pieces of paper
And pieces galore,
And they spilled from the sack
On his back to the floor

“What’s this?” she demanded,
“Start telling me true!”
“Each,” he confessed,
“Is a big I.O.U.
“For many a year
“Congress plundered the store;
“When they spent all they had,
“Then they borrowed some more.”

“Til the lenders, exhausted,
“Collapsed in distress,
“Then the government cranked up
“Its vast printing press,
“Until every tree
“From Nome to Miami
“Was cut to print money
“For your Uncle Sammy.”

Ermingard, being
Sufficiently bright,
Knew in an instant
That Santa was right.
And even today, she recalls
(With some chills),
The ladies room stalls
Stacked with ten-dollar bills.

The money was there for
(She found this alarmin’)
The banknotes were worth less
Than White Cloud or Charmin.
Somewhere, she knew,
Politicians would gloat
That they’d picked her own pocket
To buy her own vote.

Then Santa sighed, “Presents?
“Let’s all just forget it,
“Since cash is now worthless
“And no one gives credit.
”So, Christmas? Prepare
“All the kids for bad news,
“As I stuff their wee stockings,
‘With cheap I.O.U.s”

He mumbled farewell
With a cynical laugh.
But she said, “I’ve a sandwich
“And you can have half.”
He paused and he squinted,
Then smiled with a sigh,
And sat down beside her,
A tear in his eye.

He said, “Christmas can be,
“What we make it to be.
“Merry Christmas to you,
“Tuna salad for me.”

Words - 374

S.J. Masty, a London-based communication consultant, pilots the Time Machine column each Wednesday.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

UN and NGOs focus more on securing funding than relief effort, says MSF

Relief agencies 'feed the headquarters beast' claims report that raises concerns about humanitarian emergency response

This article challenges the work that many humanitarian organizations are doing and it is incumbent upon us to scrutinize these allegation very seriously. Please read this article recently written by Mark Anderson in The Guardian and leave your comments if you wish. At the end of the article I have included feedback from two leading humanitarian analysts, Bill Nicol and Liliane Fan. Bill is the author of Tsunami Chronicles, a superb book for disaster managers.

MDG : MSF nurse doing triage among people, waiting to be seen by the medical team, Juba, South Sudan
A Médecins Sans Frontières nurse in Juba, South Sudan, performs triage on people waiting to be seen by the NGO's medical team. Photograph: Kim Clausen/MSF
The UN and international NGOs are failing to respond to humanitarian emergencies despite having more resources at their disposal than ever before, a medical charity has warned.
In a damning report that criticises crisis management in urgent situations such as conflict and mass displacement, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says many organisations are more concerned with risk aversion and securing funding than providing a serious relief effort.
"While it is core business for the humanitarian system, emergency response capacity has been undervalued and under-prioritised," the report says. A lack of technical capacity plagues current responses to humanitarian emergencies, it adds.
In recent years, many NGOs have rebranded as more generalist development agencies, and there are fewer focusing on specific aspects of emergency response. This has compounded the problem, the report adds. "In some cases, we found that technical capacities were not as they should be, for example, in health, water and sanitation, or assistance to victims of sexual violence," MSF says.
The report is based on interviews with 116 humanitarian workers, and analyses the international response to conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Syria, all of which have caused mass displacement and required an urgent humanitarian response.
Relief efforts in these countries have been marred by logistical constraints, which limited assistance to rural communities, the report says. "There's a bias towards what we call easier projects: accessible areas, places you can get to by road, camp populations with registered refugees, anything near the capital, and in conflict zones, anything that's government controlled," said Sandrine Tiller, co-author of the report.
MSF is especially critical of the UN, which the report claims is at the core of many of the system's dysfunctions. "The current UN system inhibits good decision-making, in particular in displacement crises where a number of UN agencies have a responsibility to respond," said MSF's international president, Joanne Liu.
Tiller says subcontracting is drawing resources away from the ground and diverting them to western offices. "It's just a chain of subcontracts," she said of the current response system. "It goes from the donors to the UN agencies to an implementing NGO to another local NGO, and at the end, there's no one in the field. There's a dearth of attention to those difficult areas."
Part of the problem was that relief operations have shifted to offices in Geneva, London and New York, Tiller says. "If you go to any bar in Juba or in Kinshasa and talk to the real humanitarians in the field, this is what they're complaining about," she said. "They would say their headquarters have become too bloated, it's become a massive bureaucracy, that they constantly have to feed the headquarters beast with information. They feel they don't have enough time to talk to refugees, they have to spend more of their time doing reports. Human contact is kind of lost."
Tiller points out that MSF "is not immune" from the issues outlined in its report. "The system under-capacitated – we can just work from nine to five," Tiller said. "So who's going to do the night shift?"
Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said: "Anyone who has been in a full-blown humanitarian emergency will know that they can indeed be chaotic and dangerous, especially in the initial phases. It is, nonetheless, vital that people in acute need get the help they need. UNHCR constantly looks at ways to improve the way we work, and we are viewing MSF's criticisms in that light."

Thanks to Mark Anderson for permission to run this article he wrote for the Guardian on Monday 7 July.

Comments from Bill Nicol and Lilianne Fan
  • Bill Nicol: Nothing surprising here, Bob, unfortunately. There's big money involved. Big pay packets follow. Bonuses (i.e. a share of the loot) are already paid to not-for-profit fund raisers. It's a small step to management bonuses. With these come associated incentives for low-cost/high-payoff "humanitarian" programs. The problems are not universal across all not-for-profits but the drivers are there nonetheless. They join other incentives like those to spend money fast but unwisely to avoid media criticism and the reverse (and equally perverse) incentive to spend slowly to avoid mistakes that also might attract criticism.

    Lilianne Fan I must say I agree with Bill, and would go further... it is not only a big business, it is a cartel. Not sure you have read HPG's 2012 report on Humanitarian Space (, which lays out some facts about how the humanitarian system really functions like an oligarchy. It is also really shocking how inward-looking the aid system is. To be frank, I don't think solutions lie in just trying to fix the system, which may be beyond repair in some ways. I would rather see more resources go into political processes and solutions, efforts to prevent violence, address root causes of conflict, insecurity, etc. This won't happen through 'resilience-building' projects of aid agencies either. Societal change cannot be projectised.

  • Lilianne Fan From the HPG report: "In 2008, the largest six organisations/federations had a combined humanitarian spending of US$1.7 billion, compared to the US$193 million of the next 11 largest organisations/federations. The dominance of the largest UN and NGO agencies in financing and governance means that the humanitarian system resembles an oligopoly with power concentrated in a few organisations. Despite differences in specific missions and mandates, these major organisations operate as a closed group or ‘cartel’ with interrelated histories and limited scope for new entrants."