The relief team consisting of Dr. Hari Conjeevaram, Dr. Aperla, Mr. Jan Floris, Mr. Ken Pandya and Mr. Ramesh Subramaniam reached Manila on 2nd and 3rd January, 2014. On 4th January, they met with several members of the Manila Sathya Sai Centre before going to Tacloban. They were hosted by Sathya Sai volunteers and accommodated in a comfortable hotel in Tacloban. As there was no suitable site for a base camp in the devastated city, the team planned to continue their search outside the city limits of Tacloban. In spite of widespread havoc, it was heart-warming to see the smiles of the local people and inspiring to observe their faith. The next day, they planned to visit Basey, Marabut, Guiuan, Sulat and Dolores, to meet with the local mayors and vice-mayors and visit the schools and hospitals in the area.
The following objectives were identified as priorities:
- Find a Sathya Sai volunteer team to assist in setting up base camp in this area.
- Find the venue for the medical camp.
- Assess the needs for water and water purification processes.
- Assess the needs of local schools and students in restoring school operations.
The medical relief team spent 16 hours travelling long distances over rough roads. They visited several places including Basey, Osmenia, Marabut, Guiuan and Borogon City, where fruitful discussions were held with school principals and teachers, mayors and vice-mayors and other public officials about humanitarian relief. The team observed extensive damage extending over several miles along the East Coast. They noted several opportunities for reconstruction and repair of elementary and secondary schools. One of the team members, Ken Pandya was able to assess the water purification needs at one of the schools and provide recommendations regarding chlorination and filtration, which was much appreciated.
It was observed that medical help was already being offered along the East Coast and the Sathya Sai volunteer team decided to concentrate more in and around the badly damaged Tacloban area. They also decided to visit the Tacloban area, Biliran and Ormoc on the next day.
The team formulated two different models for rendering medical services based on the needs and venues available, with the intent of finalizing the system shortly, based on local experiences.
The team obtained more information on the feasibility of organizing medical camps as either mobile camps or as clinics [camps at different sites five days a week, as opposed to running a medical camp at the same site five days a week]. They also secured more information about recovery efforts in schools.
On this day, they travelled along the West Coast and visited Alang Alang, Biliran, Oromoc and Naungan, where they observed significant devastation, especially in the last two areas. They also had a chance to meet the local administrative officials in Biliran, Oromoc and Naungan, who provided important details about the work being done
In Naungan (about 2 hours from Tacloban), the relief team identified significant needs for medical assistance and repairs and restoration. The local elementary school needed help with repairs, and there were opportunities to help the children and their parents. Naungan has about 1,200 families and nearly 5,000 people and the Sathya Sai volunteers were happy to meet the residents and the local leaders to assess their needs. They also visited a local church in Tacloban which offered to host the medical camps at their site. The team planned to visit a few other churches the following day, and the towns of Palo, Tanauan, Dagam, Buraen and Dulag
The relief team went to Palo 1 and Palo 2 and visited the mayor, and then inspected a medical camp at the grounds of the city hall. They visited the Provincial Hospital in Palo where the medical director expressed a need for medical services from the Sathya Sai volunteers from 1st March, 2014.
In addition, the group visited three schools in the Palos area where they discussed reconstruction and repair efforts along with plans for conducting medical camps in the school premises. Team member Ken Pandya performed water testing in one of the schools and found that the drinking water contained very low levels of chlorine – this information was conveyed to the mayor who promised to take corrective action immediately. The volunteers also found a wonderful place to stay from where all service activities could be properly coordinated. There were two townhouses next to each other and in close proximity to the ‘Missionaries of Charity’ church which will be the site of the medical camp in future. A one-year lease was executed and necessary repairs were planned to make this a suitable place for Sathya Sai volunteers to stay in the near future. The need for volunteers is expected to last well over a year, and Sathya Sai volunteers are typically the last ones to leave, long after all other non-government and governmental organizations leave the scene of a major international disaster.
The final summary assessment from the Scout team in pictures.