Typhoon Haiyan occurred on 9th November 2013, devastating many communities across central Philippines. Tens of thousands have died and millions have been displaced from their homes. The World Scouting team visited Scout Groups supporting rehabilitation work in Tacloban (Leyte). With over 1.5 million Scouts, the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, led by the Honourable Jejomar Binay, the Vice President of the Philippines, is one of the largest members of the World Scouting family. Scouts from all over the country had reacted within hours of the disaster to provide support to multiple relief organisations. At a global level, in response to a solidarity operation launched by World Scouting, Scouts and supporters from 28 countries have contributed over 30,000 Swiss Francs so far.
From the 24th to 26th January, a World Scout team led by His Majesty the King of Sweden, the Honorary Chairperson of the World Scout Foundation, Simon Rhee, Chairperson of the World Scout Committee and Scott Teare, Secretary General of World Scouting, visited several initiatives undertaken by Scouts in the Philippines, in particular those supporting rehabilitation for typhoon Haiyan victims. The Regional Director of Asia Pacific Scout Region, JR Pangilinan and the Honourable Vice President of Philippines Jejomar Binay also joined no the visit to the city of Tacloban and were guided around the sites by Mayor Romualdez.
In the city of Tacloban, a young Scout leader said to the visiting team, ‘Scouting saved my life, I used the knots learned in Scouting to tie myself safely to a tree in the seconds before the storm surge hit … otherwise I was dead!’ The Social Sciences teacher of San José high school in Tacloban, also a Scout leader, talked of the role played by his senior scouts who led a campaign to get children from affected families to return to school.
During the visit, Scott Teare said: “The Scouts here are doing some amazing work to help those affected to quickly get back to normal lives. What is important for us is how Scouts in Philippines were prepared for such disaster. While we are not a disaster relief agency, there are Scouts all over the world, like the Scouts in Philippines, ready and willing to help when disaster strikes. We have seen this great work pan out recently in support of the Syrian refugee crisis, in Haiti and Nicaragua.”
While visiting Scout activities in the typhoon affected areas, the World Scouting team presented money collected from its solidarity operation, plus an additional large contribution from the World Scout Foundation, to support disaster relief and rehabilitation work being done by Scouts. In post-disaster circumstances, Scouting is one of the few local groups organised to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities.
The high level World Scouting team also visited the Ticket To Life programme, a Messengers of Peace supported project that extends Scouting to street children in Manila and other parts of the Philippines, handing over further financial assistance as part of its ongoing support to this project. Scott Teare, Secretary General of World Scouting added: “We are very proud of the world that our Scouts in Philippines are doing with these vulnerable children. And the Ticket To Life programme is running in many other countries around the globe. The task is daunting but the need to serve these children is so great.”
Scouts from Ticket To Life programme in Manila had come out of the streets soon after the typhoon hit their compatriots, to join other Scouts in the capital city in helping re-pack urgent relief material, showcasing that one is never too poor to help and contribute to other needy people.