Lessons learned by a first-time fundraiser
on Passage to India (India), 04/Feb/2014 11:15, 34 days ago
The strongest typhoon in the planet's known history struck Central Philippines on November 8, 2013. By now, probably everyone around the world who had the interest to hear about the super typhoon have heard about it. And by now, 3 months later many have forgotten it.We haven't recovered yet from the natural disasters that struck different parts of our country in the past 2 years since I came back home from 2-year volunteer service in India in 2011, and then there was Typhoon Haiyan. No one alive now, nor those who lost their lives, experienced a storm with such strength before. The outcome was a massive devastation and thousands of fatalities.At times like these, the Filipinos are quick to act, there would be organizations and individuals reaching out to donate cash or relief goods, engage in rescue or retrieval operations, etc. Because it has become a new normal in my country, I always kept a pack of clothes for when the need arose to donate I would be ready. It was all I could do because many of the disasters took place in areas far from where I reside, except in 2012 when a torrential rain that seemed to have enjoyed its stay inundated many parts of Manila; with colleagues and friends we organized a soup kitchen.This time I didn't touch the clothes. Instead, I went to join a relief operation and then later, volunteered to provide psychological first aid to typhoon survivors who were flown in to Villamor Air Base in Manila by C-130's from the affected areas.I did it out of compassion and empathy, and perhaps solidarity with my fellow Filipinos. I could not imagine the amount of sufferings of those who died and survived, I wanted to do more to help ease their pains. But I didn't know what and how. There was already an outpouring of aid and support from in and outside the country, governments, organizations, peoples from around the world. The measly cash I could donate would be a drop in the ocean. Still there was a huge need for support. There are areas that haven't been reached, and at times like this, any kind of support is welcome.When my former boss and friend came up with the idea to raise funds so we could provide some comfort to women and girl survivors - sanitary napkins and diapers for babies - I didn't think twice. I've never done fundraising like this before, I didn't know how to ask for money at all. And I didn't know how to receive them, if they came at all. For the first time I was going to approach friends and acquaintances, and ask, I did. Wrote a personal letter and sent to people in my contact list To my surprise and delight, I received favorable responses, pledges came one by one, and the funny thing even was that I got the quickest response from men. Fancy that, men understanding the discomfort monthly period bring to women. There's hope for gender-sensitivity, after all. - but that's just an aside. Just one week after we solicited for support we raised an amount enough for 500 women. More funds came in and we reached a total of 1000.Lesson 1. I thought I must have written a poignant letter. I later realized that it wasn't my personal letter that moved them. Us human beings have capacity for compassion and empathy. We feel the anguish of our fellow wherever they may be in the planet, even when we are ensconced safely at our homes, away from life-threatening natural or human-made events. That when the need and opportunity arise we try do something, anything, to alleviate human suffering.Lesson 2. At the same time, trust is important. People who helped us know their support would not go to waste, or be lumped with random donations. And that trust we have to keep. As funds continue to come in, we feel more obligated to ensure that we use them properly and righteously. And happily we will do it.Lesson 3. Fundraising is a bonding activity. We are a small group of women who informally banded together - some of us raised funds, others did the work at the ground. Every time we meet to plan our next moves we bring food to share among us. And this is just among us. We also got to reconnect with friends and acquaintances from other parts of the world. Like all of those who helped us all we wanted was to do what we can in the smallest way that we know. As we see the smiles of the people and hear the faint"thank you's"we know that somehow we've chipped some discomfort that Super Tyhphoon Haiyan brought to them. Of course, no one wished for the disaster to happen to my fellow Filipinos, or to anyone in the future. Yet, when it did, human kindness set in.