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Where there is darkness, let us be the light.
Operation Walang Iwanan (Haiyan/Yolanda) Updates as of Dec 20

Dear Friends, 

Between accounts of the unbridled devastation in the Visayas and of what seems to be a bottomless well of caring and generosity from friends here and abroad, we have to admit: the past few months have not been easy on the emotions. We all know that Christmas is coming, but do you feel it? At the back of our minds, we’re all wondering how one family of Filipino people could be celebrating it so differently from one another.

If helpless despair and darkness were a string of lyrics, this is how it would probably sound like – and for a moment there, in the early days of discovering the aftermath of Haiyan (Yolanda), this was the song that played in the hearts of many Filipinos and global citizens alike.

Yet there is a Filipino way of seeing things, and using this lens, the story of Haiyan (Yolanda) slowly begins to unfold as a story not of great tragedy but of great hope. Buried in the trail of clutter and chaos, this typhoon left something else for us: a bone-deep reminder to what Christmas is truly about. 

Sharing Christmas

There is nothing quite like love that’s freely given and received to warm hearts in grief and despair. If Christmas were ultimately about a love so extraordinary, then it couldn’t get any more Christmas than today. Here are some highlights from our efforts to share Christmas with as many:

1. We have personally handed out ~100,000 food packs in ~220 barangays in ~75 towns across 8 provinces.

While relief goods distribution in Panay, Negros and Cebu has now shifted to planning for long term reconstruction, relief operations are still ongoing in Samar and Leyte. We expect to finish at ~130,000 food packs before Christmas.

(Image: Team GK's relief ops traverse Central Visayas. Click HERE for a more detailed visual on relief goods distribution.)

Operation Walang Iwanan would not have been at all possible without the thousands of volunteers – young and old, rich and poor, popular and seemingly ordinary – who’ve stepped up to become heroes for our brothers and sisters in need.

READ MORE on Tito Jerome Paler, who was recently awarded for Exemplary Volunteerism, becoming the face of countless heroes who have given so much for the survivors.

Whether by land, by air or by sea, volunteers from all over the Philippines made their way to where they were needed the most, even if it meant traveling for long hours and spending the Christmas season away from home. More than their giving out of much needed relief packs containing food and water, the volunteers’ presence and care helped bring a more tangible hope to the survivors.


2. We have started rebuilding, and are gearing up for what we estimate to be a three-year commitment. So far:

• We have identified ~1,500 safe and secure lots for rebuilding, keeping us on-track in our plans to build the same number of homes by June 2014. In fact, we've already started building the first 7 homes in GK Tambulilid, thanks to Globe who had committed 100 homes soon after Yolanda left the country.

The first row of 7 houses now being rebuilt in GK Tambulilid, thanks to bayanihan

• We have begun repair works for about 300 homes scattered across the Visayas. 

• We are currently building 40 boats to help the fisherfolk of Northern Cebu get back on their feet (GK Balangay).

This would not have been possible without the overwhelming pledges and collections. Some had taken from their corporate pockets, while others raised funds on our behalf…

…Including those from around the world, just to make December a season of hope for all.

Others chose to give up their Christmas parties instead.

Big or small, every effort counts. Each has made the difference, and we honor you all the same.

READ Tito Tony's Christmas Message: "Generational Blessing"

3. We are continuing to work closely with both private citizens and government to adopt the GK model of community building and local leadership empowerment.

Charting the New Year with Hope

Around the world, the Filipino Christmas has been known to break records. We’ve mastered the art of extended celebrations, and we hope that with your help, we will be able to do just that: extend Christmas to all, extend Christmas year-long.

To start off, in the first 100 days of the New Year, we intend to have built and turned over 300 homes, and to have the GK Balangay and roof repair programs up and running in full blast (Click HERE to find out how you can help). In addition, we are targeting to conduct weekly medical missions that will receive 1,000 consultations each and that will especially cater to the health needs of the children. Most exciting of all, much like the surge that engulfed the Visayas, so will we, with at least A MILLION VOLUNTEERS from various parts of the country and the world. Scheduled to begin on April 12 (a little after Araw ng Kagitingan or The Day of Valor) and culminate on June 12 (Independence Day), we are orchestrating it to be the most historic and most patriotic Bayani Challenge to have hit the country.

Last November 8, Haiyan (Yolanda) cast upon our country a darkness so gripping, it almost took Christmas away for many of us, most especially the victims. But darkness has no effect when the source of light has not been affected. The Filipino spirit of Bayanihan only continued to shine brighter as the rest of the world joined in. Giving, loving, and all other acts of caring and sharing only fanned the flame, making our resolve to rebuild stronger and more powerful than any storm, earthquake and calamity combined.

Where there is darkness, let us be the light – as Christ is for us. IF we unleash our infinite capacity to love, December can still be Christmas for all.

Walang Iwanan,
Team GK

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