Christmas in the Philippines

What kind of Christmas do you think it will be in the Philippines this year? In cities like Tacloban that were so devastated by typhoon Haiyan?

It always amazes me just how strong is our initial gut reaction to places like Tacloban as our hearts go out to the folks affected by natural disaster, and we’re eager to help, and the news is dominated by stories of those affected…and then how quickly the news cycle fades and our attention shifts. Haiyan hit one month ago, and already we only hear bits and pieces of the story of the folks who are still – will be still for years to come – struggling to reclaim their lives and rebuild their homes and communities.

I came across this TED Talk recently about just that phenomenon. It features Caitria and Morgan O’Niell, two sisters who – while 20 and 24 at the time – helped to organize a long-term response to the damage caused by a tornado that hit their Massachusetts home town. Neither knew the first thing about disaster response, but they learned quickly. And one of the most important things they learned is not only that you have to make the most of the limited attention span and response of the public — which usually lasts about 7 days — but that you have to be prepared for when that attention wanes, for when the major relief agencies move on to the next disaster, and for when the community continues to need help – and has things to offer each other – over the long haul.

Since their experience in Massachusetts, they’ve taken what they’ve learned on the road, empowering other communities to take control of their lives – and all the offers of help they get – after disaster strikes through their Recovers resources for community-powered disaster relief.

I wish I could introduce Caitria and Morgan to the folks at Lutheran World Relief. I had a few emails from readers after mentioning LWR a month ago as a good place to make donations after typhoon Haiyan. Each person mentioned something specific that he or she most appreciated about LWR. One was grateful for LWR’s commitment to long-term engagement. Because after the media, public attention, and other agencies have moved on from the Philippines, LWR will still be there, helping people rebuild their lives and communities. Another appreciated knowing that so much of what they give goes immediately to those in need.

I couldn’t agree more, and I’d add a third thing I appreciate as well. Since watching Dan Palotta’s TED Talk a half year ago I’ve been thinking not only about things like overhead and long-term commitment, but also about the kind of difference an organization makes and the scale of their dreams. Here, again, LWR is a leader, transforming the lives of so many as a response to God’s love for us in Christ and working, indeed, to make the world look more like God’s vision of a place where everyone has enough – food, water, shelter, clothing, love – to flourish.

With that in mind, I’d invite you not only to watch the nine-minute TED Talk below by the amazing and inspiring O’Niell sisters but also to check out what LWR is doing in the Philippines and all over the world and consider offering them your support. By doing so you will be helping to make it a better Christmas in Tacloban – and so many other places around the globe – than we could have imagined four short weeks ago.

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