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Kids of OFWs Help ‘Ondoy’ Victims

By Maricar Cinco (Philippine Daily Inquirer) First Posted 21:04:00 11/04/2009

WHILE EVERYONE else was busy swapping ticket stubs for food rations, Mark Harold Alejandre, a Grade 5 pupil, was minding his own business during the distribution of the relief packs.

He secretly gave one food pack to an old woman who came up to him but presented no ticket. He also parted with his share of snacks.

Nakakaawa po kasi (I pity her). She came late and had no ticket (stub). She almost cried, Alejandre said.

The boy was moved by the womans story about the flood destroying her house when Tropical Storm Ondoy struck her community on Sept. 25.

Alejandre, whose mother works as a helper in Hong Kong, was among 62 elementary and high school students from Alaminos town and San Pablo City in Laguna who joined a relief drive for calamity victims in Santa Cruz town on Oct. 25.

They are members of the Batang Atikha, a club of children of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) organized by the Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative Inc. The nongovernment group aims to help OFWs and their families address migration issues.


This is to sensitize the children of OFWs. Usually, they are the ones who pity themselves because they feel that they were left behind (by the migrant parents). We thought of mobilizing them to expose them to (the) realities, said Atikha executive director Mai Añonuevo.

One group of the relief team went to Barangay San Pablo Norte in Santa Cruz and another to Lumban town to distribute 3,500 packs of rice, canned goods and bottled water to families.

Some 18,000 families were affected in Santa Cruz, according to the municipal government, and 12 of its villages were still submerged in waist-deep flood.

In Lumban, two villages were still inundated.


Añonuevo said the food packs were bought from contributions of Filipino migrants based in New Zealand. The migrants sent half a million pesos through the Dutch foundation Wilde Ganzen (Wild Geese), with whom Atikha partnered for this activity. The foundation supports disadvantaged people through fund raising.

The problem is Filipinos abroad doubt if the money they sent through the government will go directly to those they want it to be given. It is (also) practical (to send cash instead of clothes or food) because the latter will add charges for the freight, tax and storage, she said.

In the Philippines, members of the Batang Atikha solicited canned goods while some gave used clothing.

In our school, we were each asked to bring one pad of paper and a pencil (also for the flood victims), said Chelo Villanueva, a Grade 6 pupil. Like Alejandre, she came from the Alaminos Central School, a partner institution of Atikha.

Noriel Lacsina, who is in Grade 5, said he cried when his mother did not allow him to join a swimming party. But with this one, she immediately signed the waiver when I asked her to, he said.

He said he was waiting for his parents to chat on the Internet soon to let his father, who is in Saudi Arabia, know that he had helped in the relief drive.

You waded through the flood Villanueva could not believe it when the group of high school students returned from the victims area.

They might catch leptosis, another said, referring to the flood-borne infection leptospirosis.

For safety, only the high school students were allowed to take the boats and distribute the relief goods to families who stayed in their flooded homes.

Were excited. It was our first time, said Kim Sanchez, a senior at the Lake City High School and whose parents are in Italy.

Another said she got scared whenever the boat tipped to its side because she did not know how to swim.

At the height of Ondoy, the students said they were on their way back to Laguna from a field trip.

They said this relief drive was like going on another field trip. We sure have something new to tell our classmates tomorrow, one student said.

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