Recently, news of Mayon Volcano erupting and wreaking havoc on its surrounding towns shocked Filipinos all over the world. Located in the Province of Albay, Mayon Volcano has brought one of the worst disasters in the Bicol Region, affecting thousands of families. Public schools became temporary evacuation centers to keep the families safe from the ashfall.
Children would hide under their sheets every time the volcano made a thunder-like roaring sound. They would sleep the nights away as it spewed out ash, gas and lava, and formed dark clouds of smoke. Furthermore, some children showed behaviours that attribute to a trauma known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
Living in an evacuation center can be an arduous experience. I, myself, found it stressful every time I paid a visit to hand some goods and hygiene kits. It wasn’t any easy for the elders and children alike to take. Placed far from their rice farms, parents could not work to feed their families. They relied on packed goods sent by the government and some non-profit organizations.
My hope lay in the thought that sending the children toys would probably make them play with friends. Such simple joy could make the experience a little better for them. So, I came up with a project for children to turn away their fears.
Reaching out to more evacuation centers, I and other donors were able to give joy to more children. With need as our top priority, we determined a select number of evacuation centers to serve. Truly, it was a relief to see the children delighted about the toys, smiling and thankful for receiving unexpected gifts. Watching them seem not worried about their plight gave me more hope. The disaster would soon be over. Everything will be back to normal. In our simple way, children were let to feel that they can still enjoy life as kids.
First, waves of toys came to select evacuation centers in the town of Camalig through the help of Lions Club International. Then, more waves of toys came to San Jose Elementary School in the town of Malilipot, and San Antonio National High School and Tabiguian Elementary School in Tabaco City in the succeeding weeks.
Many thanks to those who helped me make this project happen: Marissa Torres-Langseth of Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI), Tita Emmy Vera Cruz, Lion Ross Hardy-Baker of Riverstone and District Lions Club of Australia, and Tita Liz Lee Roa. My thanks also go to Professor Gretchen Millena, Ma’am Jessa, Ma’am Evelyn Volante, and the rest of the teachers who facilitated our visits at different evacuation centers.
“Toys may get destroyed and old, but gratitude seen on every child’s face lingers forever, that they may want to give, too, when they’re older. I always believe that kindness is contagious. You do someone kindness, and he or she looks up to you and makes you an inspiration to pay it forward. So, be still and show kindness wherever you go.”
More and more waves of toys are coming this summertime to select barangays that were affected by the Mayon Volcano eruption.
Maydeline R. Belir
- Volunteer for HAPI Bicol
“I stand up for women because they are precious.”