Aid in practice – mobilizing youth when disaster strikes

Published on Friday, 06 December 2013

Published by Anna Oposa on Friday, 06 December 2013

Relief goods distribution in Barangay Tuog in Ormoc City, Leyte. Photo courtesy of Bundles of Joy.
Relief goods distribution in Barangay Tuog in Ormoc City, Leyte. Photo courtesy of Bundles of Joy.

Written by Anna Oposa, Youth Researcher

For a lot of youth around the world, disasters and aid are just concepts—something they might view on television or read about online, but never actually experience first-hand. 

That changed in the Philippines when Super Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) made landfall in the center of the country in early November. As the scale of the devastation became clear, young people moved swiftly into action. We cleared out our closets for clothes to donate, packed and distributed relief goods, and started numerous projects to help. I’ve seen ads for hugathons, futsal marathons, concerts, parties, and art auctions to assist some of the 10 million Filipinos in 41 provinces that have had their lives upended by the disaster. So how are young people in the Philippines responded to this colossal disaster? 

Here are some examples of how young people mobilized and made a real difference to the relief efforts:

Bundles of Joy and Letters of Hope

Twitter: @bundlesofjoyPH


Bundles of Joy (BOJ) is a grassroots volunteer effort initiated by 28-year-old social entrepreneur Anya Lim, who is based in the Visayas. One ‘Bundle of Joy’ package costs about US$10 and contains the following: 1 kilogram of rice, 2 liters of water, 3 canned goods, 3 packs of noodles, 1 piece of clothing or blanket, 2 packets of vitamin C, 1 packet of paracetamol, 2 candles, and 1 matchbox. What sets this apart from other relief packs is that each package contains a Letter of Hope, which is a short note from the local and international community to uplift the spirits of the survivors. 

To ensure the transparency and efficiency of the initiative, BOJ partnered with individuals and organizations who are directly involved with communities affected by the typhoon. The partners are expected to provide photos and a list of recipients for documentation.

Due to the overwhelming support of donors, BOJ exceeded its initial target of 500 packages in 5 areas and deployed 1,100 bundles in 11 areas in Northern Cebu and Leyte.

Adopt a Small Island Initiative


The Adopt a Small Island Initiative was co-founded by 26-year-old environmental scientist Monica Ortiz to deploy in-kind donations and channel financial resources to purchase a crucial part of life on a small island― a motorized boat (locally known as banca). A banca is the main “equipment” of fisherfolk and the main mode of transportation between small islands and the mainland. 

The provincial government of Cebu estimated that a simple motorized boat costs about PHP15,000 (around $340). The goal is to raise at least PHP270,000 and provide 6 island barangays with at least 3 bancas each. As of November 18, the group had already raised PHP173,084.

The project sites were chosen based on damage assessment reports and discussions with the provincial government and University of the Philippines in the Visayas. Both institutions are directly engaged with the barangays and communities in northeastern Iloilo.


#baHAIYANihan is the brainchild of Arriane Serafico, a 25-year-old government employee and social media practitioner. The name is a play on the Filipino word bayanihan, which loosely translates as a “spirit of communal unity.” 

The initiative involved a collaborative community bazaar and arts night to help rebuild a school in Malapascua Island, Northern Cebu which was devastated by the typhoon. It was held on Tuesday, 19 November.

Instead of calls for typical relief goods such as rice and bottled water, #BaHAIYANihan asked for pre-loved items such as clothes and accessories. This way, items could be reused instead of being thrown away, kept in the closet, or donated to a random community. The initial target was to raise PHP30,000. The event raised PHP126,130.

All these contributions show that youth can and do mobilize their peers in times of calamity, whether in the form of volunteering for relief operations, sharing information about people who need help, or raising awareness about disasters through social media. 

This enthusiasm needs to be tapped so that young people can play an even greater role in disaster risk reduction and management. 

The message from the typhoon is clear. Young people have the passion, energy and potential to make a real difference in times of disaster and, ultimately, to ensure their communities become more resilient in the face of climate change-linked weather extremes in future.