‘Kindness stations:’ Take what you need, give what you can
Take only what you need, but give whatever you can in the spirit of “Bayanihan.”
With that as a guiding principle, a group of volunteers launched a unique relief supply chain called “Kindness Stations” for people who had lost their livelihood during the Luzon-wide lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In these stations, people are allowed to get what they need and are encouraged to donate any surplus food and other supplies for others in their communities who don’t have or couldn’t afford them.
As of Wednesday, six Kindness Stations had been established, benefiting at least 800 residents in Sorsogon province.
Maricris Labayandoy, a senior high school teacher at Sorsogon National High School, teamed up with fellow teachers, students and other volunteers to open their first Kindness Station at Buenavista Elementary School in Sorsogon City.
She told the Inquirer that she was moved by reports of panic-buying and hoarding even before the lockdown.
Realizing how privileged she was because of the regular salary she was receiving, her thoughts turned to parents who could not provide for their children during this period.
“I knew it would take some time before government aid or food rations reach them,” Labayandoy said.
Values in community
“I thought that instead of just giving away relief goods, we also inculcate the values of sharing, ‘bayanihan’ spirit, generosity and empathy among people in the community,” said Labayandoy, explaining the idea behind the Kindness Stations.
She said those who visited the stations were reminded that some people were also in need and that they “have to spare some for them, too.”
Some residents have been dropping off some food like coconut and vegetables in the donation boxes inside the stations.
“This proves that no one is too poor to give,” Labayandoy said.
Labayandoy, 31, and her team discussed the idea on March 15, the day the community quarantine was imposed on Metro Manila and thousands rushed home to their provinces.
“I started to contact as many people as I can. I received positive responses from seven of them and they were really into it,” Labayandoy said.
Her team was composed of a former coteacher, a worker at Nasa Carritas, a staff member at the governor’s office, an elementary school principal, a pastor and businessman, and students.
She said that aside from the help they received from various donors, they had also given from their own pockets.
Remote first station
Rowan Celestra, Buenavista Elementary School principal, told the Inquirer that his school was chosen as the first station because of its remote location.
“The school was selected because it is far from the city proper and the people are having difficulties in buying their food supplies,” he told the Inquirer in a text message.
He said that on March 25, the opening day of the Kindness Station, they were able to give rice, bread, apples, soaps and face masks to nine residents.
Kindness Stations have been popping up at different schools since then.
Labayandoy and her team have set up stations in the villages of Marinas, Peñafrancia, and Gimaloto, all in Sorsogon City, and in the towns of Irosin and Magallanes in Sorsogon province.
“At Irosin, on our first day, we had 40 beneficiaries who went to the station and we were glad because we also received donations from the local farms there,” she said.
Her group plans to put up Kindness Stations in each district in Sorsogon City and at least one in each town in Sorsogon province.
Ideally, however, she said each village should have its own versions of the station.
“I even encourage households that have much to set up their own station outside their homes,” she said.
In April, Labayandoy and her team started buying products from local fishermen as well.
She said they were coordinating with the local agriculture office to buy local products so that farmers in the community could earn some money.
On April 5, an online benefit concert by Ken’s Center for Music Enthusiasts, a music center in Sorsogon City, was able to raise over P150,000 worth of donations.
“Basically, this is humanity bringing back humanity,” Labayandoy said. “It is overwhelming and really great that we see people who rise up and respond to the needs of others. But I do hope that while private individuals are doing this, the government will also be true to its duty of providing what is due to the public.”
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