Food For Life volunteers are bravely venturing into the most affected parts of the Philippines to feed victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
The super-typhoon struck the Philippines on Thursday November 7th with winds of 195mph, and is being described as the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.
Thousands have died and the United Nations reports that 13 million were affected, and over 4 million forced from their homes.
According to Reuters, “The Philippines and international armed forces and aid agencies are struggling to get help to devastated areas due to the extent of the destruction.”
ISKCON joined the aid effort when a sankirtan party of eight Food For Life volunteers left Manila -- where the Philippines’ Food For Life center is based -- on November 11th, travelling by road to Legaspi city and then by boat to the island of Samar.
Victims of the typhoon arrive at Villamor airbase
Although they were expected to reach Samar at noon on November 13th, they were delayed for two days along with other aid agencies.
When they did arrive, leader Balarama Das said the situation on the ground was very risky, because people were wild due to trauma and hunger -- many hadn’t eaten for five days in a row.
To protect themselves, Balarama and his group of volunteers got assistance from military officers in finding a place to set up their kitchen and sleeping quarters. They were given the Abuyog Cultural Center in Leyte province as their base.
From there, the group began feeding people from November 15th on, distributing 1,000 packs of hot rice and dahl daily.
Packs of prasadam ready to be distributed to typhoon victims
Meanwhile on November 18th, Food For Life volunteers began distributing packs of rice and tofu bean subji to the 2,000 victims of the typhoon who arrive at Villamor Airbase in Manila daily.
“They have lost everything and are trying to find their relatives in Manila,” says Manila Food For Life Director Radha-lila Dasi.
At last report, other groups of devotee volunteers were gearing up to start feeding victims in other affected locations such as Northern Cebu.
The main concern for Food For Life in reaching places far from Manila is transportation.
Feeding hungry refugees at Villamor airbase
“If we can connect with military officials or government, then we can bring food to the most affected, hard to reach places by helicopter, as the roads are damaged,” says Radha-lila. “We also need qualified and experienced volunteers and funding.”
Help is already coming in from around the ISKCON world. The Lotus Trust associated with Bhaktivedanta Manor, Food for Life Global and Filipino devotees abroad are helping to raise funds for Manila Food For Life’s relief efforts.
“Food For Life Hungary have also contacted me and are studying the possibilities of sending experienced volunteers,” Radha-lila says.
As help ramps up, she plans to set up five Food For Life camps in different parts of the Philippines, and to feed two meals daily to a minimum of 2,500 people in each location.
“I have a projection of continuous feeding for three to six months,” she says.
Serving juice packs at Villamor airbase
To volunteer for the relief effort by cooking, packing, or distributing food please contact Radha, Ananda, Gopi, or Gopal at the Manila Food for Life office: (+632) 890-1947 / 215-0076 or 0917-8378176.
Please send donations to the following bank account:
Account Name: ISKCON SRI SRI RADHA-MADHAVA MANDIR-FOOD FOR LIFE OR ISSRMM-FOOD FOR LIFE
Account Number : 291-729182246-7
Bank: Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company
Branch: Bagtikan, Makati City
Address: G/F Lou-Bel Plaza Bldg., Chino Roces Ave. cor Bagtikan Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City
Tel Nos. (+632) 896-9693
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