For Christmas, I try to raise as much cash as possible to support a little cause I started a couple years ago. I’m sure my friends and family cringe when Christmas rolls around and they start getting my emails, my blog posts, my Facebook status updates, etc! And, let me tell you, I am very uncomfortable doing it!
But, I do it anyway. I stick my proverbial neck out, risking a little awkwardness to ask people for $10, $20 or more. Let me tell you why.
In 2013, the Philippines suffered a devastating natural disaster as Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) swept aside homes, businesses and the lives of mothers, fathers, and children. The destructive force of that typhoon is indescribable. (See some of my videos.)
When I flew over the island just a couple weeks after the typhoon to join in the disaster recovery efforts, I simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Sometimes we see pictures of disasters like this from the angle of a single lens. Flying overhead and seeing miles and miles and miles of destruction is something different. Feeling the agony, despair and suffering while on the ground only adds impact to the memories I carry with me.
I packed a few necessities on that trip – food for myself, basic medicines, water purification, clothes, candy and balls. That’s right – candy and balls. I brought both of those things knowing good and well that I was going to run into all of these little bundles of happiness who didn’t look at a piece of wood on the ground as debris from a terrible storm, but as some toy they would put to good use. Children are the effervescence of life. Typhoon Haiyan was the third typhoon I’ve been part of and I’ve always been shocked at the resilience and hope carried by these happy little kids.
The candy went pretty quick. I pulled it out one night and within minutes I had a swarm of children around, happily grinning, teeth already missing. The balls, however, well those lasted. Every day, I’d see a different set of kids with the balls. They shared with each other and took turns making up games to play. In the shelter I stayed at, balls would be out as soon as everyone woke up, during meal times and, of course, in bed with a kid that wanted to just sleep next to their only toy in the world.
In a typhoon like Haiyan, in a place like the Philippines, there usually isn’t a lot left standing. It was a rare sight to see a home that didn’t have at least 25% damage. Most homes were damaged between 50% – 75%. Roofs and walls were missing and it wasn’t uncommon for families to stay in their tiny little, half-destroyed shack. While visiting, I could see that these kids literally had nothing at all – no toys, no clothes … nothing. I met many mothers who scavenged in the debris for shirts or shorts or flip flops – someone’s loss, another’s gain.
I decided last year that it was just absolutely unacceptable that a kid in our world today doesn’t have a single toy to play with. We live in the greatest, most wealth country in the world. My kids have an XBox, iPods, clothes, food – they lack for nothing. Yet, I KNOW for a fact that there are these happy little kids in the Philippines playing with sticks and debris and someone’s trash from who knows where because they have nothing else. These little kids who have more hope, courage, and happiness than most of us can muster in our lifetime deserve something, anything.
Last year, we were able to deliver over 200 balls to these kids. I am SO grateful for my friends, family and strangers who gave a little, or gave a lot. I’m grateful that I have a whole army of volunteers there in the Philippines who have no money to give, but will give their time and energy purchasing the balls, finding the kids with the most needs and delivering them for Christmas.
We’re a little, itsy bitsy nothing of an organization with a rag tag group of volunteers who just want to do something good in this world of ours. Join us. I promise, it’s worth it.