Gawad Kalinga exec cited for quick ‘Yolanda’ response
MANILA, Philippines—For his efforts in leading emergency and rehabilitation work in Eastern Visayas following the devastation left behind by Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” an official of the poverty alleviation group Gawad Kalinga Foundation received an award Tuesday from a group of female editors, columnists and reporters.
Jerome Paler, GK Southern Leyte head, was cited for being an exemplar of volunteerism by the group Women in Media. He and the other awardees were feted at a Pasay City hotel in a ceremony attended by President Aquino.
“I dedicate this to all the volunteers who helped GK. I’m just [one] face but this (award) will represent all the volunteers who were with me,” said Paler in an interview with the Inquirer.
He was accompanied in receiving the award by GK founder and 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for community leadership Antonio Meloto.
Paler, a doctor based in Maasin City, led a group of GK volunteers to Ormoc City on Nov. 9, the day following Yolanda’s exit.
He said that before Yolanda struck, he and volunteers from his chapter had been going to Bohol to help the residents displaced by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that occurred on Oct. 15.
“We thought we’ll have a rest after Bohol, but then came Yolanda. So we went to Ormoc early as it was the most accessible,” said Paler, who has been with GK 11 years.
After Ormoc, the GK volunteers went to Tacloban City, Palo, Alang-alang and MacArthur towns in Leyte, bringing food packs for the hungry residents. GK also conducted medical missions to various parts of the province.
Paler said GK mobilized up to 1,000 volunteers, half of whom went to the affected areas, with 30 to 50 volunteers per trip.
The doctor expressed his thanks to the donors from Maasin, other parts of the country and the world for the aid they gave for the Yolanda survivors.
He said he was currently arranging for the shipment of a container van of rice from a donor in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, as work in the disaster zones shifted to rehabilitation mode, Paler said GK would be leading the construction of new homes for those who lost theirs to the typhoon. In Ormoc, the program will start the middle of this month for the two existing GK villages there where the houses were destroyed.
“If you want to help, without expectation of payment, volunteer with GK. There’s no application form, just drop by our sites and we assure you there will be lots of things for you to do,” he said.
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