By Linda Bloom*
Using already established relationships has made it easier for the United Methodist partner and hunger relief agency to respond, says the Rev. Ray Buchanan, Stop Hunger Now founder.
As of early December, Stop Hunger Now was in the process of shipping more than 1.8 million meals from the U.S. and its office in Malaysia, the agency announced. Hundreds of thousands of additional meals and other aid was being packaged and distributed through partners in Singapore and the Philippines.
A small group that included Buchanan and Allen Renquist, Stop Hunger Now’s chief program officer, also made a trip to the Philippines, arriving Nov. 17, to hand deliver 1,100 water filters in partnership with Wine to Water, a nonprofit devoted to providing clean water and sanitation to people in need.
Buchanan, who kept a blog of the trip, said he found the typhoon’s destruction in northern Cebu – roofless or destroyed homes, downed trees, damaged infrastructure – to be similar to if not as intense as Tacloban, which has received more media coverage.
Many were homeless and seeking shelter any place they could find it. Buchanan pointed out that burials in the area are above ground because of water table. “We saw numerous families living in the crypts…because it was shelter,” he said.
The government in Cebu has promised to restore power by Christmas, but many have lost their livelihoods. Buchanan believes there is still a great need for food and fresh water.
Part of the reason for the on-site visit, he said, was to verify that partners on the ground could receive as much aid as Stop Hunger Now was shipping and to encourage those partners to move forward with assisting typhoon survivors.
“The most exciting thing, for me, was working with our partners in Rotary (International),” he said. “They organized a meal packaging event in Manila in response to the typhoon. From start to finish, from organization to cleanup, they did the whole thing themselves.”
About 500 volunteers packaged 120,000 meals at the Nov. 22 event in Manila.
Buchanan said the experience of responding to Typhoon Haiyan has re-affirmed the organization’s plan to establish additional international offices. The office in Malaysia, for example, was able to ship 400,000 meals to the Philippines. “Already that strategy of trying to start offices in other parts of the world to respond to crises more immediately is paying off,” he noted.