Techie aid workers to share lessons from Yolanda
Techie aid workers to share lessons from Yolanda
A book that honors Filipino aid workers who pioneered technological innovations in disaster response in the aftermath of Yolanda will be launched on November 9 at De La Salle University

MANILA, Philippines – It’s been 4 years since Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the country.

In remembering the disaster, a book that honors Filipino aid workers who pioneered technological innovations in disaster response will be launched on November 9, Thursday, at the De La Salle University by the British Council-funded Newton Tech4Dev Network. (READ: 4 years after Yolanda, trauma still haunts typhoon victims)

The book, which is entitled “The Filipino Aid Workers of Typhoon Yolanda: A Commemorative Feature,” narrates the struggles and opportunities faced by 8 Filipino aid workers working for global humanitarian agencies.

It includes narratives and interviews from the research project on local aid workers led by Dr Jonathan Corpus Ong of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, photography by renowned photojournalist Geric Cruz, and design by National Book Award winner Karl Castro.

Humanitarian response for Yolanda is unique, according to Ong’s research, as it gave unprecedented attention to communication and information needs in disaster-stricken areas.  (READ: TIMELINE: Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan))

It found that local aid workers who are fluent in local culture and language became crucial agents in humanitarian agencies as they gave voice to the needs of their communities. (READ: 5 lessons from Yolanda women survivors)

Despite the important roles of local aid workers, Ong’s research also noted that they often experience marginalization within global aid agencies being employed in short-term contracts to pilot projects by expat bosses.

While they sometimes felt as “second class citizens” within the agency, they nevertheless persisted to diligently serve communities with great compassion and courage.

“We wanted the book to record the voices of local aid workers who are often the unsung heroes within their organizations. We hope their stories can inspire the humanitarian sector to better support local workers and address power inequalities in organizations,” Ong said.

“Our aim is that local aid workers who are actually embedded in communities are encouraged to author and lead projects from the local perspective,” he added.

The book features the stories of aid workers who piloted hazard mapping technologies and community feedback mechanisms:

  • Angelo Melencio (Plan International Philippines)
  • John Vergel Briones (previously worked for International Organization for Migration or IOM)
  • Jerby Santo (previously worked for IOM)
  • Aivon Guanco (World Vision Philippines)
  • Arnold Salvador (World Vision Philippines)
  • Janeen Kim Cayetano (Catholic Relief Services)
  • David Garcia (previously worked for United Nations Habitat)
  • Mikko Tamura (Red Cross)

The book will be launched following a roundtable discussion hosted by Dr Nicole Curato of the University of Canberra and Voltaire Tupaz of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm.

Curato is an experienced disasters researcher and political sociologist, and a researcher of the Newton Tech4Dev Network. Tupaz, editor for MovePH has covered various disasters including Yolanda and has led the operations of the disaster platform Agos, powered by eBayanihan. 

The book and the research project it is based on will be available as a free download on the Newton Tech4Dev Network website by Thursday.–

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