How to keep going in a crisis within a crisis

Over the last seven months, teams in the Philippines have responded to four humanitarian emergencies. World Vision Philippines’ Joy Maluyo gives us a glimpse into life on the front line.

A typhoon, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption and now the coronavirus health crisis. Was it easy to say yes to each of them? 

Definitely not, especially for this pandemic.

I remember the first day that we went out to check the isolation tents provided to hospitals. There were only three of us allowed to go out in the beginning: Jao, who is in charge of distribution activities and Randolf, the quiet, yet effective logistics expert who also had to drive for us because of limited manpower.

Then there’s me, the girl whose response vest pockets always burst with a microphone, powerbank, consent forms, and all the essentials a communicator should never go without.

Armed with our protective goggles and masks, we travelled in the car, smiling and cracking jokes together to ease the fear.

“It’s a war, the silent kind, and we were on our way to the battlefield.”

It’s been more than two months since that day.

We are still on a roll and I thank God for the courage to soldier on. Those days of seeing firsthand the situation that frontliners, children and their families were in helped me better plan my team’s work, ensuring that people, even those in the far-flung areas are reached by life-saving information.

World Vision has reached over 3 million people using different channels and I honour my colleagues who have been working behind the scenes – from our media point people, to our creatives team and our volunteers on the ground.

It’s also been two months of absorbing the pains of parents rendered jobless by this pandemic, of having a glimpse into the heart of children whenever I photograph them, of celebrating with the team when people come together and respond to our call for help.

Irish smiles

I won’t forget the shy but genuine smiles of siblings Ric and Irish [pictured above] while delivering fresh vegetables and sanitation kits – items that their parents could barely afford while their income’s disrupted.

With schools closed, these children are stuck at home. I pray for them.

The smallest kindness goes a long way

The unending thank you of 30-year old Jessica [pictured below], for World Vision’s cash-based project also got me. She’s almost my age but she’s already been through a lot. She lost her source of income and said she’s never felt more helpless and frustrated.

Her eldest child has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), her second child is malnourished and her youngest is only five months old.

For mums like Jessica, the smallest kindness goes a long way right now.

Answering the call

I also had the privilege of talking to frontliners – those in the hospitals and those in the villages. Each of them expressed their fears but responded to the call nonetheless. I think that’s one thing frontliners can all relate to. We have the option to say no to the call, but we choose to go because that’s part of who we are.

Telling their stories

I’ve learned a lot, too, about being more resourceful. With all the restrictions, when I’m in the community I give myself a maximum of 30 minutes to get things done. What comes, after the short interactions with the families, are hours of phone calls as I delve deeper into their stories.

Every day, I challenge myself to tell their stories well, to advocate for them and echo their thoughts – not just in the content I produce but also when we plan how to help.

A communicator, I learned over the years, is also a strong influencer, a decision-maker strategically placed in the response team to help keep everyone grounded. Our content is the face and voice of many people, who, during emergencies, can become just statistics.

We will get through this

I know we still have a long way to go. Two months into this response and with no rest from the previous disasters, I can already feel the physical and emotional exhaustion. I content myself with video calls with my family who are miles away from me. Just like in all the other humanitarian responses I’ve been to, I assure my parents that I will come home soon.

I also think of the families who are still reeling from the three previous disasters I mentioned. Crisis within a crisis is the last thing they want to be confronted with. But here it is, silently coming for them. More than ever, we need to stand for the vulnerable, for the children whose future largely depends on how we, as a global community, respond to this pandemic.

I know we will get through this. And when we do I will be on standby, like I have always been, with my World Vision vest, my camera, pen, my fears and my hopes, ready to share the story of how we have overcome.

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