Volunteer group raises funds to cover shortage of PPE in Leyte

Through the civic engagement group Tabang PH, a fundraising initiative was organized to produce alternative personal protective equipment for frontliners and other vulnerable groups

FOR THE COMMUNITY. Volunteer group Tabang PH provides alternative personal protective equipment sets to healthcare workers, vendors, and firemen in Leyte. Photos from Tabang PH.

LEYTE, Philippines – As communities deal with the shortage of personal protective equipment during the pandemic, a group of students and alumni from Visayas State University (VSU), an academic insitution located in Baybay City in this province found a way to help. 

Through Tabang PH, a civic engagement group formed by Jamie Faith De Veyra, Felix John Amestoso, Allen Glenn Gil, Kit Felian Tenio, Trishia Jade Acilo, and Weneline Balena, organized a fund-raising initiative to produce alternative personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners and other vulnerable groups.

“The mortality rate of health care workers in the Philippines is very high. We feel like a factor for this is the shortage of PPEs. You see in the news that a lot of nurses and doctors are making use of trash bags as alternative protection. This is why we wanted to focus on making PPEs like masks, face shields, and sanitizers,” Amestoso said.

FOR FRONTLINERS. Face masks and shields are turned over to the Rural Health Unit in Libagon, Southern Leyte. Photo from Tabang PH

Amestoso, a science research assistant in VSU Institute of Tropical Ecology & Environmental ManagementI- Marine Laboratory, led the team in Baybay City.

“There are also plenty of people who do not have the privilege to stay in their homes. There is also the skeleton workforce, for example, who are called to go out of the safety of their own homes to keep the economy going. We saw a lot of them did not even have face masks. Providing these people with makeshift protective gear, we are slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus,” Amestoso added.

He emphasized the word “makeshift” to acknowledge that the PPEs will not necessarily be at par with medical-grade protective gear but, in the words of health care workers themselves: it’s better than nothing.

 MAKESHIFT MASKS. A volunteer distributes makeshift masks made by the group for the vendors in Baybay City Market. Photo from Tabang PH

The improvised PPE is the best, if not only, option for many people. (READ: Filipinos find ways to improvise safety in the time of coronavirus

“The sanitizer, face mask, and shield are deliberate. The face mask is meant to be paired with a face shield so as to be an additional layer of protection and with that the sanitizers to keep your hands clean…You can go around with a face mask and shield but it seems utterly useless if your hands are dirty,” he continued.

Call to protect

Tabang PH has teams in Tacloban City, Baybay City, Ormoc City, Matalom, and Albuera in Leyte, as well as, the towns of Libagon and Sogod in Southern Leyte. Each team functions independently of the other but operates with the common goal and that is to help protect frontliners and affected communities.

Initially, the team struggled to put themselves together.

Still an unofficial group at that time, the community quarantine limited their mobility. With many establishments closing, this caused a delay in the procurement of materials in towns like Tacloban City. 

“Overseeing and coordinating with all the clusters, particularly in Team VSU-Baybay was difficult when we first operated because the clusters are located in the upper campus, lower campus, and in Brgy. Guadalupe, and we weren’t recognized by the VSU frontliners.”

This progressed into a partnership with the VSU and Sangguniang Kabataan in Baybay where a a total of 170 face shields  where made for the healthcare workers in VSU and 676 face masks were donated to various barangays in the city. (READ: EXPLAINER: The PPE keeping our healthcare workers safe)

“It got me on the edge. I feel like, the longer we get delayed, the higher the chances our frontliners were in danger,” Amestoso said.

DONATION. Volunteers turn over face shields and masks to the Bureau of Fire Protection in Sogod, Southern Leyte. Photo from Tabang PH

As of writing, Tabang PH raised over P100,000 and produced more than 2,871 face masks, 1,062 face shields, 1,606 disinfectants and soaps, including 33 PPE suits.

Amestoso also said the group will continue this initiative even after the pandemic since relief operations geared towards promoting sustainability is something he wants to pursue. 

“Personally, I am more inclined to environmental conservation. Mainly on hands-on activities (application). I prefer this type of work rather than talking or speaking.”

He added that the core members have discussed reaching to farmers once the pandemic has been contained.

“We’re still looking for another source of funds besides donations though. We can’t keep on soliciting from people. People are barely holding themselves together with the economy on a halt,” Amestoso ended. – Rappler.com

This article was first published on Visayas State University website. It has been republished and edited on Rappler with permission.