We are a group of students and friends from Germany and the Philippines, first brought together in 2009/2010 and recently reunited by the tragic events triggered by typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. In 2009, we were 47 recent high school and vocational training graduates who signed up for a yearlong volunteering in the Philippines, distributed across various regions and projects and supervised by the German Development Service DED (today: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GIZ). During our stay we learned about the Philippine culture, were stupefied by the Archipelago’s natural beauty and, most importantly, formed many friendships, which last until today.
In November 2013, the strongest recorded typhoon to make a landfall hit the Philippines and devastated the Waray-region – the central-eastern part of the country- where a large share of us worked and lived for a year. The storm, featuring wind speeds of up to 470 kilometers per hour (close to 300 miles) caused a five to ten meter storm surge that swept across the low lying cities and towns located close to the waterfront. Depending on the source, the immediate death toll in the most severely hit cities Guiuan and Tacloban is estimated to lie somewhere in between 5,000 and 10,000, while data from the smaller communities of the region is often not available. The damage and suffering caused by the catastrophe will stunt the region for years and it will take decades to recuperate what was lost within one storm.
We felt obliged and motivated to contribute our humble share to support the people in of the Waray-region, who once hosted us as their guests. Immediately after the catastrophe we raised more than 20,000 Euros to fund various small and medium sized projects across the region. Around Christmas 2013, for example, we funded “Operation
Santa” in Hernani, one of the poorest municipalities in the affected region: our local volunteers organized schooling supplies for all elementary pupils to help restarting school after New Year’s. However, one of our biggest projects did not focus on a specific undertaking but on people in the region: we provided financial support to six young inhabitants from Quinapondan and Hernani who committed their time to small projects within their communities. These specific projects, initiated by these volunteers, received additional funding.
So far, our fundraising activities were channeled through a specific fund of “Freies Wort Hilft e.V.”, a charity backed by the biggest local newspapers from the federal state of Thüringen with the goal of providing financial support in various catastrophes. Through this cooperation, we had the opportunity to immediately begin with our efforts without starting our own charity first. Yet, as this arrangement was only temporarily in nature, we decided to start our own charity to create a lasting legal framework for our donors. On the 9th of August, 2014, we officially founded the “Waray Empowerment Network Germany Philippines e.V.”