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Empowering Rural Women: Community Savings Group Leader joins online dialogue in support of UN Food Systems Summit 2021

In celebration of the International Day of Rural Women tomorrow, we honor Alma Bayawan and her dedication to empowering her community towards resilience by promoting sustainable livelihoods.

“As a leader of our Community Savings Group, I will share with my members the importance of planting more types of crops and use practical ways to increase our crop production and would increase income and most especially we will ensure that our families have food to eat,” Alma Bayawan, Uswag CSG Leader

Bilang leader sa among Community Savings Group (CSG), akong I share sa akong mga members ang importansya sa pagtanom ug pag gamit sa praktikal nga paagi aron mas modaghan among tanom ug makadugang sa income ug masiguro nga adunay makaon among mga pamilya, shares Alma.

Alma is the incumbent leader of the Uswag CSG in Barangay Illomavis, Kidapawan City. On September 9, 2021, she represented her community as she participated in the Food Systems Independent Dialogue, ‘Building Resilient Local Food Systems by 2030’ which was last spearheaded online by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR).

Alma joins the Food Systems Independent Dialogue: Building Resilient Local Food Systems by 2030 online via Zoom | © Photo by Roger Cabiles for Action Against Hunger

She provided her insights from the discussion, wherein she mentions, Natun-an nako nga dili lang dapat isa ka klase ang itanom sa uma, mas mayo nga magtanom pud ug laing klase nga tanom nga mohaum sa klima sa among lugar ug mosukol sa taas nga init o kanunay nga pag-ulan sama sa kamoteng kahoy o kamoteng balagon. Aside sa makadugang kini sa among income, aduna pud kami dugang nga kakuhaan ug pagkaon sa among mga pamilya.”

“I learned that I should not rely on a single variety of crop to be planted in the field, it is better also to plant other types of crops that will suit the climate of our place and could resist in drought or frequent rains such as cassava or sweet potato. Aside from increasing our income, we would also have additional sources of food for our families.”

The main objective of the activity is to solicit concrete actionable commitments from various stakeholders. These will be their contribution to the quest in ensuring safe and nutritious food for all, which is also in support of the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.

© Photo by Roger Cabiles for Action Against Hunger

“Daghan kong natun-an sa akong pag apil gahapon sa virtual dialogue. Una, na meet nako ang uban nga participants sa laing lugar nga pareha pud nako usa ka farmer ug padayon nga naningkamot sa pagtanom aron maka income ug adunay makaon ang pamilya,” she said. Alma hopes to share with her fellow members the resilient strategies she had learned from the dialogue with her fellow CSG members.

“I have learned a lot from my participation in the virtual dialogue, I met other participants in other places who are also farmers like me and continued to grow crops to earn an income and have food for the family,”

Like Alma, we recognize the work of rural women ─ they are real-life heroines in the world’s food systems. “Uswag” means ‘develop’ and agreeably, rural women’s significant contributions to nutrition, food security, and climate resilience put their communities on the right path towards sustainable development.

© Photo by Louie Bullanday for Action Against Hunger

The Food Systems Independent Dialogue was convened by IIRR in partnership with the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security, Inc. (PhiLCAN), Philippine Society of Nutritionist-Dietitians, Inc. (PSND), PROLINNOVA Philippines Country Platform (PROLINNOVA), and Scaling Up Nutrition-Civil Society Alliance Philippines (SUN-CSA PH). Action Against Hunger is a member of PhiLCAN.

Moving Urban Poor Communities Towards Resilience (MOVE UP 4) is a consortium project that offers durable solutions in terms of capacitating local governments and communities in mitigating the adverse socio-economic effects of disasters. With funding from the European Union, MOVE UP 4 is implemented by Action Against HungerPlan InternationalCARE Philippines, and ACCORD Incorporated.


Written by Roger Cabiles, Jr. | Edited by  Joyce Sandajan.

Real Life Heroes – Angela Nalaunan

Angela’s involvement with Action Against Hunger started back in 2014 when she became part of our Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) Emergency Response in Northern Iloilo. Now, she is a Project Assistant for our USAID-funded disaster risk reduction (DRR) project in BARMM, and a Real-Life Hero!

Get to know Ma. Angela Nalaunan and what sparked her motivations to become a catalyst for change.


What is your role in Action Against Hunger?

As project assistant for the “Strengthening Local Resilience and Building Capacities in Areas at High Risk of Natural Hazards in BARMM, Mindanao” project, my responsibility is coordinating with community partners and leaders, especially with the local government at both barangay and municipal levels. I also facilitate training sessions and provide awareness and information to the community with regards to disaster risk reduction, and resilient livelihood.

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?

I’ve been working as a humanitarian for a decade now. I was involved with Action Against Hunger before, from 2014 to 2015, as PhATSS Officer for our Typhoon Yolanda Emergency Response in Northern Iloilo.

What motivated you to become a humanitarian worker?

Being a research student when I was in college, I was exposed to different communities in different situations. After seeing and understanding what they were experiencing, it gave me a sense of purpose— to become a catalyst for change. That’s why I became a humanitarian worker.

Why are you making this sacrifice?

Working with different kinds of people is a challenging job. But being a vessel of hope, sharing one’s expertise, and seeing people with a smile on their faces is one of the most rewarding things in this world.

What have been the challenges to your work?

There are times when work is a bit out of control and things don’t go as planned. But, what is important is that you overcome these obstacles because you want to be a part of something good.

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

Always go back to your purpose, remind yourself why are you are here, and you will just overcome those challenges.

What are you most proud of?

Being a catalyst for change for a lot of people.

What climate change impact have you seen with your own eyes?

Being in a DRR project I have seen and expose to a lot of natural disasters like floods, typhoons, and earthquakes. Seeing this community affected by this calamity is heartbreaking, it took away their property, livelihood, and worst their loved ones, and it is very devastating.

How are you taking action against climate change?

By sharing awareness, facilitating training, and giving information regarding Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Actions that the community could understand.


Strengthening Local Resilience and Building Capacities in Area at High Risk of Natural Hazards in BARMM, Mindanao‘ is a disaster risk reduction (DRR) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID-BHA) and implemented by Action Against Hunger.

Real Life Heroes – Lyndon Arbes

For  Lyndon Arbes, being able to spark change and making a lasting impact in society is both his pride and joy. The drive to help others in need emanates from a propensity to put himself in the others’ shoes. This, he shares, is rooted in his personal experience during his humble beginnings.

Now working as the Deputy Head of Project for our MOVE UP Mindanao project, Lyndon shares with us the lessons he gained from his 22 years of working as a humanitarian worker, or rather, as a real-life hero.


What is your role in Action Against Hunger?

I am currently the Deputy Head of Project for the Moving Urban Poor in Mindanao Towards Resilience (MOVE UP 4) project. My role for the project is to manage, coordinate, implement, monitor, and evaluate all the activities in Action Against Hunger in strengthening the resilience of the urban poor against human, natural and climate-induced hazards. We do this by building and supporting the capacities of communities on resilient livelihoods. The project also advocates for the inclusion of alternative temporary shelters, technical assistance on camp management, social protection, and/or risk-transfer modalities in local government disaster risk reduction management plans.

Photo courtesy of Lyndon Arbes

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?

I have been in the development work and humanitarian for 22 years now.

What motivated you to become a humanitarian worker?

Coming from a poor family, I fully understand how difficult life can be. I empathize with communities, especially with our farmers and other vulnerable sectors, who have experienced devastating impacts of disasters—losing livelihoods over and over, or grieving over lost lives.

Being a development and humanitarian worker is a noble work and profession that provides me the opportunity to give back to the people in need. Through my work, I am able to help others improve their socio-economic condition, protect their lives and livelihoods, and enabling them to withstand and bounce back after disasters. Seeing their faces brimming with so much joy is what inspires me most.

 

Why are you making this sacrifice?

We are all human and everyone deserves help. We need to care for others the same way we care for ourselves, and our families.

 

Photo courtesy of Lyndon Arbes

 

What have been the challenges to your work?

Working in the development sector is sometimes a very complex process considering that communities we work with have different social, cultural, and political contexts. So, sometimes you need to be creative and innovative in the ways you advocate them. Adding to this challenge is the current COVID-19 pandemic which brings us certain limitations. But we make our maximizing our efforts now more than ever in enabling communities to be more vigilant in case of potential crises, while at the same time learning to exercise caution against COVID-19.

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

Working with farmers and the most vulnerable sector of our community has always been my passion. Seeing them transform their lives with smiles on their faces gives me a sense of fulfillment, and also my source of motivation.

What are you most proud of?

In my 22 years of working with humanitarian organizations, what I am most proud of is being part of a community that is helping improve the lives of many with the utmost sincerity and passion. I am proud to have this as my legacy.

Just recently, we were able to mobilize around twenty-seven community savings groups in Kidapawan City with total savings, social funds, and livelihood amounting to 1.5 million pesos. These savings came directly from all the members, which they managed to accumulate in less than a year. It makes me proud how a change in their mindset and attitude has allowed them to achieve this milestone—not only are they financially literate and independent but they are also more prepared and resilient.

Photo by Jan Azucena for Action Against Hunger

What climate change impact have you seen with your own eyes?

Climate change is real, and it’s been happening not only now but even way back. If you saw on TV that the glaciers are continuously melting which is resulting in rising sea levels, this means changes in our climate patterns are now being characterized by extreme weather events. The fact that El Niño and La Niña are becoming more intense is one of the many shreds of evidence that climate change is real.

How are you taking action against climate change?

Climate Change is a global issue but solutions can be started right at the community level. There are plenty of ways we can do to fight climate change. One is to simply reduce our own carbon footprints. We can also plant more trees and advocate for change—change other people’s attitudes and be more caring towards our environment.

Photo courtesy of Lyndon Arbes


Moving Urban Poor Communities Toward Resilience (MOVE UP 4) is an urban disaster risk reduction (DRR) project which aims to build resilience among urban poor communities in Mindanao. With funding from the European Union, MOVE UP 4—also known as MOVE UP Mindanao—is implemented by a consortium of partners consisting of Action Against Hunger PhilippinesPlan International PhilippinesCARE Philippines, and their local partner ACCORD Incorporated. Read more

Real Life Heroes – Roger Cabiles

Being a humanitarian worker is more than a career choice. Most of the time, it involves having a shared sentiment that anyone and everyone can help others in many different ways.

Roger Cabiles, our Head of Project and Consortium Manager for the MOVE UP Mindanao project, shares a similar perspective as he talked about the value of paying it forward.

We sat down with Roger and asked him a few questions about his role as a project implementor, team leader, and inspirational real-life hero.


What is your role in Action Against Hunger?

I ensure that the [MOVE UP 4] activities are implemented and managed well in our project areas to ensure a positive impact on the communities and the people we serve. I also lead the coordination between our consortium partners and stakeholders to ensure that we work on the same goals, we complement each other’s strengths and we provide necessary support and assistance when needed.

Signing of agreement: Four people seated side by side. The two in the middle are signing papers.

Roger Cabiles (second from the left) represents the MOVE UP 4 consortium as he signs the agreement with the local government of Cotabato Province on July 15, 2021. (Photo by MOVE UP 4 for Action Against Hunger)

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?

Almost a decade—from an indigenous peoples’ community in Pampanga to Typhoon Haiyan Response in Tacloban City with DSWD, then to post-conflict rehabilitation in Bangsamoro with FAO UN and now urban resilience with MOVE UP in Mindanao.

What motivated you to become a humanitarian worker?

A belief that everyone deserves a dignified life and a just society.

Why are you making this sacrifice?

I don’t really see it as a sacrifice but a shared responsibility. When someone sees poverty, inequality, and oppression, there should be no second thoughts about taking action. As for me, I know that my strengths are in managing and implementing development projects so I feel that this is my contribution to making the world a better place. Everyone has a stake in this so everyone should do their part, no matter what profession, no matter what work they do.

In photo: Roger Cabiles, Jr. shares updates on the MOVE UP 4 projects within intervention areas.

What have been the challenges to your work?

There are times you get overwhelmed with all that’s happening in the world and you feel you can’t do anything about it.

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

It is ironic that this feeling of being overwhelmed is also a motivation and a push for me. There’s a lot of work to be done and one should breathe, relax and get back to work.

When someone sees poverty, inequality, and oppression, there should be no second thoughts about taking action. Everyone has a stake in this so everyone should do their part, no matter what profession, no matter what work they do.” – Roger Cabiles, MOVE UP 4

Photo courtesy of Roger Cabiles

What are you most proud of?

I am proud when I become dispensable to a project. It means I have done my job— mentored my team well and made it more about the communities and less of us and the project. That is the measure of success for a development project—community ownership and sustaining the gains even after the project timeframe. Empowerment and sustainability are things that I am very proud of.

What climate change impact have you witnessed?

Oceans are getting warmer and warmer and typhoons are getting stronger and stronger. I have worked in post-Haiyan rehabilitation and I’ve seen its devastating impact. This will be the new normal.

How are you taking action against climate change?

Being conscious of the impact of your lifestyle and your actions on the environment as well as on vulnerable communities. But more than personal responsibility, demanding more from the private sector and the government on concrete and tangible ways to address climate change and its impact on communities especially the vulnerable ones.

 

Photo courtesy of Roger Cabiles


Moving Urban Poor Communities Toward Resilience (MOVE UP 4) is an urban disaster risk reduction (DRR) project which aims to build resilience among urban poor communities in Mindanao. With funding from the European Union, MOVE UP 4—also known as MOVE UP Mindanao—is implemented by a consortium of partners consisting of Action Against Hunger PhilippinesPlan International PhilippinesCARE Philippines, and their local partner ACCORD Incorporated.

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World Humanitarian Day 2021 – Jo An Jagape

In celebration of World Humanitarian Day 2021, meet Jo An Jagape, our FSL Assistant for Mindanao Program 2021, and one of our Real Life Heroes! Get to know Jo An and find out how what inspires her in her work as a humanitarian worker:

What is your role and/or key responsibilities in Action Against Hunger?

As Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) Assistant, my responsibilities are to coordinate, profile, and identify target beneficiaries.  I assist my team in the implementation of the cash-for-food program; focusing on the most vulnerable, food-insecure displaced households and host communities affected by conflicts, disasters, and COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Jo An Jagape

 

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?     

Since 2005, after completing my college degree.  I was initially engaged with a local non-government organization based in Lanao del Norte as a finance staff, but along the way the organization involved me with other tasks from coordination, representation, trainings, youth organizing and exposed me to farmers & fisherfolk communities with different cultures. This nourished my social awareness.

My involvement with Action Against Hunger started during the 2012 Typhoon Sendong (WASHI) Emergency Response in Iligan City.  Since then, I have been involved in eight different Action Against Hunger projects, in different roles.

I’ve also had great experiences with other agencies or INGOs doing humanitarian work.  I’ve learned and cherished ideas that are new to me, and even enhanced and replicated these ideas to other projects. 

What motivated you to become a humanitarian worker?

I have a dream that someday we will collectively achieve the change we want for our next generation’s society.  When I was in college, I was involved in a youth organization.  This group helped me a lot in opening my mind and understanding the situation of our society. My eldest sister, Jet, who is also working with a local non-government organization encouraged me to try and work with a local NGO and along the way, I got the perspective of serving the community in need and understanding the principle of humanity. Working with communities that have different cultural and religious perspectives has influenced my passion for solidarity and to continue my humanitarian responsibility to serve the most vulnerable.

 

Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Jo An Jagape

 

Why are you making this sacrifice?

Someone asked me once why I am focusing now on the food security and livelihood sector when my previous engagement with NGOs was mostly linked with the financial side of things. For me, accounting work and recording books in a cozy office space have the same workload in the field but in a different twist. As an FSL staff, you will be dealing with everything, from office to communities’ concerns. Being in a technical team you must be responsible, adaptable, proactive, and have a sense of mindfulness to support any developments. Until now I am still eager to learn other concepts to help me improve strategies in responding efficiently during emergencies or in the recovery phase.

 

 Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Jo An Jagape

 

What have been the challenges to your work?

As a humanitarian worker, you take a lot of risks.  It might be your security, privacy, health condition, stress from workload, and being away from your family. It’s been more than a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has worsened with different variants. I remember last year that I was away from my 2 young children for almost a year because of pandemic protocols.  Balancing work and family time were greatly affected by the pandemic.

My current project has target areas that are located far from the base. It takes us 3 hours of travel time to arrive at the venue. Organizing a limited number of people in the area were done because of restricted mass gatherings while respondents and target households’ attendance was limited due to transportation concerns, fear from virus infection or just thinking that they’ll be forced to vaccinate. With all these work challenges the health & nutrition and community volunteers, RHU/LGU staff were very supportive to the team and flexible with their time to accommodate the planned activities. With their active participation, the project implementation went as planned.

The fear of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus is inevitable, but what I do is protect myself with proper hygiene and discipline to prevent the virus.

 

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

In the current project I am in, I am very glad that I’m surrounded by colleagues that have a sense of urgency, who are very creative, and have an open mind to others’ opinions on how to implement efficiently the planned activities.  My team’s positive attitude keeps me motivated.

Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Jo An Jagape

 

What are you most proud of?

The positive learnings that I will bring wherever I might be assigned in my future humanitarian journey. My previous projects have exposed me to new knowledge. I remember my previous colleague, Jonathan Gorre, teaching me how to quickly determine nutritionally at-risk children and women using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tapes. This knowledge, along with other quality learnings from other colleagues from different sectors will be with me forever.

Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Jo An Jagape

 

What climate change impact have you seen with your own eyes?

In 2021, people living in Mindanao have experienced rising temperatures, extreme heat that is unusual and is above the average recorded from the previous years. 

 

How are you helping combat climate change?

Combating climate change is very challenging! For me, I’ve changed to a minimalist lifestyle, practicing less consumption, and supporting green technology. I have also joined groups that advocate to plant more trees and develop an agroforest. Future generations will surely benefit the cause.

 The ‘Multi-Sectoral Lifesaving Assistance To People Most Vulnerable To The Covid-19 Pandemic, Conflict, and Disasters’ or Mindanao Program 2021 is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Help us fight climate change by leading The Human Race.

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World Humanitarian Day 2021 – Louie Bullanday

In celebration of World Humanitarian Day 2021, meet Louie Bullanday, MOVE UP 4 Mindanao’s DRR Supervisor, and one of our Real Life Heroes! Get to know Kim and find out how he takes action against climate change:

 

What is your role and/or key responsibilities in Action Against Hunger?

As DRR Supervisor, my role is to provide technical assistance to LGU and pilot communities to improve their resilience mechanisms.  These include advocating for Alternative Temporary Shelter systems that promote protection and dignity to displaced people caused by disasters, formulate clear social protection plans and promote resilient livelihood strategies

Photo courtesy of Louie Bullanday

 

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?

I have been working as a humanitarian worker for 12 years.

 

What motivates you to become a humanitarian worker?

The feeling of fulfillment despite challenges is what motivates me. Many are called, but only a few are chosen to do this kind of work. I was chosen to become an instrument to deliver assistance to the survivors of any calamities, and ensuring that the dignities of these people are being upheld.   

 

Why are you making this sacrifice?

Being able to relieve the suffering of people from a disaster gives me fulfillment. I love this kind of work because you see people happy and witnessing their sincere gratitude.

Photo courtesy of Louie Bullanday

What have been the challenges to your work?

Working in communities that do not treat preparedness and resiliency as one of their priorities. They are taking it for granted. 

 

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

The welfare of those families that are dependent on assistance or support from their government, especially the most vulnerable sectors like children, elderly, and PWD.

My family, especially my children, motivates me to do my best at work.  I want to be a good example to them.

 

What are you most proud of?

When I led my team to deliver assistance to affected communities during our previous emergency response. The sincere expressions of gratitude and smiles from the people energized the team to continue to do good.

Photo courtesy of Louie Bullanday

What climate change impact have you seen with your own eyes?

The changes in weather pattern which greatly affects farmers. Farmers can no longer depend on rain coming during the rainy season.

 

How do you help in combating climate change?

My contribution to the fight against climate change is by promoting proper waste disposal, planting more trees, and helping in information campaigns. I strive to be a good example.

Photo courtesy of Louie Bullanday

Help us fight climate change by leading The Human Race. Read more

World Humanitarian Day 2021 – Nino Kim Diez

In celebration of World Humanitarian Day 2021, meet Nino Kim R. Diez, ProACT’s Project Officer and one of our Real Life Heroes! Get to know Kim and find out how he takes action against climate change:

 

What is your role and/or key responsibilities in Action Against Hunger?

I take the lead in implementing the ProACT Project in the province of Surigao del Sur. The aim of the project is to improve vulnerable communities’ resilience to disasters and climate change. 

 

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?

I have been working as a humanitarian worker for 13 years.

 

What motivates you to become a humanitarian worker?

My motivation comes from my personal experiences and struggles in the past. I have seen that vulnerable sectors often do not have enough representation, especially us who are differently-abled. Most of the local governments before do not have concrete programs that specifically cater to these sectors. I want to be able to fill that gap in my own way.

Photo courtesy of Nino Kim Diez

Why are you making this sacrifice?

I am a teacher by profession, but I have chosen to be in the development work because as I see it, it is not only the children who need attention but also other vulnerable groups such as women, PWD’s, Senior Citizens, and Indigenous People.

 

What have been the challenges to your work?

Being away from my family is a big challenge for me. Sometimes I cry when I realize that, while I am serving the underserved communities, my family is longing for my presence as well. One other challenge is the different political and cultural environments that I encounter in my work almost every day.

 

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

Despite these challenges, I continue doing the work because I have a mission to fulfill for myself, especially for the people who are unfortunate in life. It is both the love and understanding of my family that fuel me to continue humanitarian work.

 

What are you most proud of?

I am very proud to become an instrument in the development of communities, especially the people who have been hit by disasters. I have become part of their successful journey toward building a better life and achieving their dreams.

 

What climate change impact have you seen with your own eyes?

The effects of climate change are inevitable.  Through the years, I have seen the sea level rise and changes in seasonal patterns.  These, coupled with the increased frequency of typhoons, have greatly impacted the communities I work in. 

 

How do you help in combating climate change?

I always encourage my team to plan and combine our trips when doing fieldwork.  I also try to go paperless, be it in the office or in the field, as much as possible.  Moreover, I encourage the community, especially farmers, to use low-cost technologies and environmentally-friendly agricultural techniques.  Lastly, I participate in the political process of formulating plans to address climate change.

Help us fight climate change by leading The Human Race. Read more

World Humanitarian Day 2021 – Sitti Mhuriza Mamasalagat

In celebration of World Humanitarian Day 2021, meet Sitti Mhuriza Gampal-Mamasalagat, one of our Real Life Heroes: 

 

What is your role and/or key responsibilities in Action Against Hunger?

I am a team leader and a mentor. I may be the “Captain of the Ship,” but I value my “Mates” most. I am trained to train future “Captains” and set to be a good example.

Photo courtesy of Sitti Mhuriza Mamasalagat (Disclaimer: This photo was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

 

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker?

Formally started my humanitarian career in February 2014 with Action Against Hunger.

Photo courtesy of Sitti Mhuriza Mamasalagat (Disclaimer: This photo was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

What motivates you to become a humanitarian worker?

It is already in me way before I became part of any humanitarian organization. I never knew that life prepared me to be the person who I am now. [And] it all made sense when I became a Professional Registered Nurse and it led me to a whole different level of care when I became a humanitarian worker; both have a common goal and definition, that is to “Save Lives” and inspire others to do the same.

 

Photo courtesy of Sitti Mhuriza Mamasalagat

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?

I definitely believe that my existence serves a purpose and only few are chosen to have this opportunity – to make a difference and be an inspiration to the affected communities. The challenges, I face them with courage and perseverance.  All my experiences in the past enabled me to see and realize that having a positive perspective can help me think of new ways to assist individuals in need.

 

Photo courtesy of Sitti Mhuriza Mamasalagat

What are you most proud of?

I am nothing without the support of others who believed in me. I am nothing if not because of the helping hands of the people surrounding me. That is why I am proud of my family, friends, and colleagues who stood by me. Wearing different and same hats, working in all sorts of shaped tables, writing on the same notes while using various pens, I had one goal: make people’s lives better, comfortable, and just.

Help us fight climate change by leading The Human Race. Read more

Real Life Heroes – Abubakar Balabagan

As humanitarian workers, our field teams have time and time again shown great dedication at ground level in reaching even the most isolated communities. One great example would be Abubakar “Bhaks” Balabagan who has always given his best efforts despite the risks and challenges.

Get to know Bhaks and what makes him one of our Real-Life Heroes!


What motivates you to become a humanitarian worker?
My purpose, which is to help people in the community who are suffering during disasters, and saving lives as well.

Why are you making this sacrifice?
It makes me fulfilled. I am happy to help vulnerable people in the community through Action Against Hunger and be able to have a role in providing free and direct access to beneficiaries – because it is one of the organization’s principles.

Bhaks teaches participants how to use the hyposol solution during the hygiene promotion session in Baras, Catanduanes. (Photo by Joyce Anne Sandajan for Action Against Hunger)

What have been the challenges to your work because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic is very challenging because the risk of contracting and/or transmitting the virus can happen anytime and anywhere if not careful. Because of this, we have to limit gathering beneficiaries in small areas for activities like hygiene promotion sessions.

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?
My motivation comes from the people I serve. When I became a humanitarian worker, I became more conscious of the people’s daily struggles and have a deeper understanding on how different their situations are. For instance, many of them are striving to survive the economic downturn during this pandemic.

What are you most proud of?
The thought that the work that I do, in some way or another, will have a ripple effect that will impact the lives of the people I serve.

Bhaks has been working with Action Against Hunger for more than 4 years. Now, he is currently part of our Typhoon Rolly (Goni) Emergency Response Team as one of the Project Assistants.


The Emergency Assistance to Typhoon Affected Communities in Catanduanes and Albay Province, Philippines is funded by by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, and implemented by Action Against Hunger Philippines, and CARE Philippines. Read more

Real Life Heroes: Nino Renz Santos

One of our Nutrition Assistants shares his story of how he became a humanitarian worker and his experiences following this decision. Get to know, Nino Renz Santos, one of our Real Life Heroes:

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗺𝗼𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗮 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗻 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗲𝗿?

It all started when I volunteered on a project in Bohol last 2013. The decision of engaging a volunteer work was made out from my unrewarding work at my hometown. At first, my family was not in favor with it because of the distance and personal reasons. Eventually they gave their blessings to me because they believed that this would make me happy. During my work and stay in Bohol, the province suffered from a strong earthquake and shifted the project on emergency relief.

Despite the trauma, lack of sleep and demanding work required for disaster response, it never gave me reasons to complain because I felt that the communities’ needs for help is more important than my own. Less than a month after the earthquake, a strong typhoon devasted the Visayas islands which led to project’s suspension and sending off the volunteers out of Bohol. In spite the rollercoaster ride of emotions, the volunteer experience significantly changed my life and became my personal calling in doing humanitarian work. It opened doors for me to help and work with the communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Eastern Samar.

Now that I’m with Action Against Hunger, I remain as a humanitarian worker because I always believe that humanitarian work is more than a job; it is a calling to make a difference in the lives of people in times of distress.

 

Why are you making this sacrifice?

My life now as a humanitarian worker has been different from the one I had back home. Going out of my comfort zone requires self-sacrifice but in return it taught me to be independent and raised the bars for my personal and professional growth. It also led me to practice my profession as a nutritionist-dietitian particularly in the field of public health. Public health nutrition was my Achilles heel back in college, but it has now become my professional expertise and strongpoint in development work. The various exposure to the realities of the communities and personalities adds yearning to further improve myself so that I can better respond to the changing and varying needs of the communities. Finally, these experiences helped me understand life outside than what I’m used to, and I hope that my simple contribution can suffice to improve the lives of the people I work with.

 

What have been the challenges to your work because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

I was worried that I might contract COVID-19 while working in the communities. But through self-care and precautions, I am blessed that I didn’t acquire the virus to date. To worry and fear of one’s health while working on this time of pandemic is already challenging for us humanitarian workers. But to put one’s mental health to test during these trying times hits different and I was not spared from it. Prior to the pandemic and unbeknownst to me, I was already experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. It got worse during the height of the pandemic and it affected my work that I had to reschedule my planned health and nutrition activities. To overcome this, my physician recommended me to consult with a clinical psychologist and undergo psychometry. With the support of my friends and workmates, my mental health gradually improved, and I can now manage my anxiety.

What motivates you to keep doing your work despite these challenges?

While I was recovering for my mental health, there were people who pushed me to my boundaries and helped me realize of why I’m doing humanitarian work in the first place. If it wasn’t for my supervisor – Levy Marcon, who encouraged me to implement the activities while my psychometry was ongoing, I would have applied for sick leave and succumbed to sadness for doing nothing. If it weren’t for the enthusiastic and proactive health workers and local leaders of our partner communities in Lanao del Sur, there would have been more children or mothers suffering from double burden with the ongoing pandemic. It’s okay not to be okay during this pandemic but I chose to be in service of others and give them a sense of hope.

 

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my contribution in helping communities rise from adversities. Not everyone can have the opportunity to be able to work directly with vulnerable populations and help them to recovery. Despite the added challenges working through this pandemic, the experience brought me feelings of accomplishment by fulfilling my duties as a humanitarian worker. And for that, I am blessed and grateful that I can continue this calling: to bring positive impact and lasting changes to communities.

Nino Renz Santos is currently working as one of the Nutrition Assistants of our ‘Response to the Unmet Humanitarian Needs of the Most Vulnerable Conflict-Affected Populations in Mindanao’ (REACH) Project which is funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and is implemented together with CARE Philippines, Oxfam Philippines, and their local partners.