- POSTED: 02 Oct 2013 13:59
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While the fighting in the Philippine port city of Zamboanga has come to an end, the humanitarian crisis still goes on -- tens of thousands of evacuees remain in evacuation centres, with nowhere else to go. Those with the spirit of volunteerism however, have been helping to ease their plight.
ZAMBOANGA: 28-year-old psychology graduate Ramona Barbazo endured an eight-hour bus ride to Zamboanga, to help out in play therapy classes for the thousands of children living in evacuation centres.
Bringing along her own art materials for the children to use, Ramona said her sacrifice is nothing compared to what these children went through.
"They went through a lot. And whatever they will become will be a product of what they went through. Help is not an option but a duty for us, for every Filipino and as a human being," she said.
This is also what prompted social worker Evalinda Jimeno to go beyond the call of duty. When she is not busy with her official task of registering evacuees, Evalinda breastfeeds hungry babies at the evacuation centre.
Ms Jimeno, who is a social worker with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said: "It was an immediate response to a hungry baby. I did not think that it was not part of my work as a social worker. I did not think of why I should do it. I just did it because the babies needed my help.
"I already saw a lot of babies crying because they are not able to drink milk from their mothers who are also under stressful conditions."
The military confirmed that fighting between members of the Moro National Liberation Front and security forces was finally over, ending an almost three-week standoff. However, it leaves the Philippine government with a worsening humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of residents displaced by the conflict still live in evacuation centres.
The government has set aside US$176 million for reconstruction efforts and plans to start building 150 to 200 homes by next week. But more is needed, as the evacuees will need time for their lives return to normal.
Maria Socorro Macaso, who works for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said: "In crises such as this, tangible help is not the only important aid needed.
"What is more important is the service that we can give, especially for the children. This is our 'bayanihan' spirit (spirit of volunteerism). When one is down, everyone wants to help."
With the scale and magnitude of the evacuees here in Zamboanga city, every little help will surely go a long way to help them recover from this crisis and rebuild their lives again.