Six months after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is rebuilding schools, deploying local disaster risk reduction planning, and enabling fisherman to return to work as part of the organization’s efforts to help rehabilitate the island nation after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced. Working in collaboration with the Jewish Association of the Philippines as well as local Filipino, Israeli, and other global NGO partners, JDC has invested $900,000 of nearly $2.2 million it raised from the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors for emergency relief and rebuilding efforts.
‘JDC’s contribution is beyond everybody’s imagination,’ said Galilee A. Ylanan, principal of Bogo Central School 1, a recipient of JDC aid. ‘This gesture has helped build a relationship between the Filipino people and JDC and has been an example of generosity.’ Ylanan’s school is one of two on the island of Cebu that have reopened with JDC support, allowing over a thousand students to resume their studies. Two more in the towns of Bagay and Maya are currently being reconstructed and JDC is also helping repair six damaged preschools on the island of Panay. JDC is also helping local communities impacted by the Typhoon better prepare for disasters by providing disaster risk reduction workshops that assess risks and help local governments develop appropriate protocol. On Panay, this includes a track that will enhance local capacity to mainstream and offer people with disabilities social service support and supplies during disasters. ‘Drawing on our extensive experience working in disaster zones in South Asia, Haiti, Japan, and Turkey, we understood it was critical that children return to their frameworks and resume their education as quickly as possible and for local communities to be proactively prepared for future disasters,’ Judy Amit, Global Director of JDC’s International Development Program. ‘While our work in the Philippines honors a nation that partnered with us to save Jews during WWII, our legacy here will be the building of brighter futures for Filipinos eager to resume their lives after such tremendous devastation.’ In addition to its educational and disaster mitigation work, JDC is replacing fishing boats on Panay, where tens of thousands of boats were lost during the storm. In order to ensure responsible distribution, JDC, through its local partner, is interviewing fishermen to assess their needs and provide boats to areas where they will have maximum impact. JDC has also deployed a delegation of post-trauma experts from the Israel Trauma Coalition to help locals come to terms with their loss. Over the coming months, the team will be working with local agencies and municipalities to train and develop local capacity to help individuals across entire provinces grapple with trauma. JDC’s immediate response to Typhoon Haiyan included the shipping and distributing of food, shelter, hygiene, and medical supplies and the provision of clean water and emergency aid for children. JDC also partnered with the IDF Field Hospital, providing critically important medical equipment and supplies. JDC’s work in the Philippines is carried out in collaboration with its partners including the IDF Field Hospital, Afya Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF, Magen David Adom (MDA), the International Medical Corps (IMC) the Israeli Trauma Coalition, the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, the Center for Disaster Preparedness, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (RAFI), Balay Mindanaw, AGAPP, and Negrenese Volunteers for Change.During the buildup to World War II, JDC together with local Jews and the Filipino government ensured the emigration of more than 1,000 European Jews escaping Nazi persecution to the island nation. JDC awarded its Or L’Olam — Light Unto the World — Award to the Philippines for its heroic role in the rescue of the Jewish refugees as part of the kickoff of its Centennial celebrations. JDC’s history of operating in the Philippines also includes its previous support of post-typhoon cholera treatment through an Israeli partner in 2009 and working to enhance emerging Jewish community life through the inclusion of the Filipino Jewish community members in pan-Asian Jewish events. Now celebrating its 100th year, JDC remains the leading Jewish humanitarian organization, putting into action the precept that all Jews are responsible for one another and humankind. Its ten decades of rescue, poverty alleviation, Jewish community development, Jewish leadership training and cultivation, social innovation, and disaster and crisis relief work have benefitted millions of people and transformed countless lives in Israel and 90 counties, at its peak.