Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan Relief: Collective Effort

Philippine Typhoon Haiyan Relief: Collective Effort

Last year had its experience of natural disasters. The Philippines Typhoon remains to be a natural disaster is one that took me by storm (no pun intended). As I have shared in my June blog entries, I traveled to the Philippines with USC’s Global Immersion Program focusing on Human Trafficking. We traveled to Manila, Subic Bay, and Querzon City, to name a few locations. The women I spoke to and the experiences I gained while walking through the slums will forever be part of my memory. When I first found out about the typhoon that hit Tacloban and surrounding areas in November 2013, I was surprised to hear the amount of devastation the disaster caused. People lost loved ones, homes, and a sense of safety in their neighborhoods.

Casey Neistat, a guy who received $25,000 from 20th Century Fox to originally create a trailer for the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, decided to use the funds to provide food and supplies to the victims of the typhoon. With the funds, Casey and his volunteers provided over 10,000 meals, tools to 35 villages, and basic medical supplies to local organizations. Although the average person may not have access to this large amount of money at any given time, we can work together and assist one another in times of need. The key word here is together.

[Click on this link to watch Casey’s video]

The natural disaster relief efforts for the Philippine Typhoon that I am happy to have participated in was a clothing & supplies drive with the Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus (APISWC) of USC’s School of Social Work. Donations were collected from students, faculty, and staff over a two-week period. After packaging the donations, APISWC produced 20 large box donations that were delivered to Goldilocks, a Filipino bakery, where the donations were then shipped to the Philippines. API SWC also collected approximately $1,500 in monetary donations as of today, which will be provided to WeGovern Institute, a resource and advocacy institute that “seeks to advance new politics that empowers the people” of the Philippines (

Everyone has a mission to assist those in need, regardless of your political beliefs socioeconomic status or education level. We are all equally vulnerable to some level of devastation and pain, like the Filipino people experienced in November. Together, we can continue to assist the Philippines rebuild again.


USC visits the US Embassy in Manila, Philippines

Please visit this link,, to read about USC Social Work students’ visit to the US Embassy.

During the Philippine Global Immersion Program, USC and students from the University of the Philippines Manila and Diliman visited the US Embassy for a discussion about women’s empowerment and legislation. The event was welcomed by Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Brian Goldbeck, an alumni of USC, on June 5th. The speakers at the event were former Congresswoman Lia Maza and Senator Loren Legarda of the Philippines.

             Pictures from the event can be seen by visiting the link provided above.





ABC News Speical: Alleged Underage Prostitution in the Philippines

This ABC News special about human trafficking and prostitution in the Philippines was shown in February 2013. Regardless of the time that goes by since the premiere showing of this special, the issue of human trafficking, prostitution, and the sex industry remains to be a global issue.

My classmates and I visited Subic Bay for two days and interacted with some girls/women who work(ed) at the bars and clubs. The experience brought to life the women and girls’ desperation for survival. Most, if not all, of the girls and women who became involved in trafficking, prostitution, and the sex industry do not willingly chose this lifestyle. The overall systemic organization of the country is what places these women and girls into these situations. The organization of the country includes the lack of implemented laws like the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, the immense amount of poverty, increasing presence of violence against women and children, the lack of employment, and a lack of government-supported social services. The awareness of these issues on a global level needs to be greatly enhanced in order to prevent trafficking in the future.

My observations of Poverty in the Philippines

The definition of poverty in the Philippines differs from the way it is defined in America. The Philippine government defines poverty as a family of five living on 40 pesos (equivalent to $1 US) a day. However, many individuals make about 32 pesos on average. Approximately 52%, 10.3 billion people, are considered within this category. These statistics are ridiculous, yet true.

Along with the differences in how poverty is defined, the way poverty exists within the two countries also contrasts. The poverty in America, for the most part, remains out of sight. We, Americans, are fully aware that poverty exists. However, we are able to easily turn a blind eye, especially the individuals that reside in the middle to high socioeconomic class.

In the Philippines, poverty is a way of life. Anyone from anywhere would be able to identify the alleys and lots where the poor live. These areas are referred to as ‘slums’. The individuals who live in these areas of poverty are the strength of this country. Ironically, these ‘slums’ are located throughout the Philippines exist next door to five-star hotels, such as the one my classmates and I are staying. The contradictory extremes of the slums and other parts of the country perpetuate the largest socioeconomic gap I have ever witnessed. The disparity between the poverty in America and the Philippines is the basis for my intern conflict.

While debriefing with my classmates, I have realized that I have not been able to, as of yet, completely wrap my head around such observations of poverty. As a social worker, I conceptually understand how poverty comes to exist and I am aware of the various relationships between the systems that perpetuate poverty. Yet, on an emotional and humanistic level, I don’t understand how this country’s poverty came to exist. Seeing the children on the streets make me want to hand them the clothes on y back and the money in my pockets. Meeting the women and girls who must compromise their safety and bodies in order to financially support their families makes me feel an overwhelming amount of anger towards the Philippine government and the men who are exploiting them. These men are not only Filipinos. They are also Americans, Europeans, Australians, and many more.

The contradictory images of wealth/poverty, social power/oppression, and private/public sectors are, without a doubt, extremely visible and shocking.

USC Summer Global Immersion Program in the Philippines

From June 1  through June 15th, I am visiting the Philippines with the USC School of Social Work for a global immersion program. The immersion program is focusing on the Feminist Empowerment Model (FEM) of intervention and practice, using human trafficking as a case study for which to implement FEM.

The USC School of Social Work has partnered with University of the Philippines in Manila (UPM), and WeGovern Institute (

My fellow classmates and I will be posting about our experiences and observations during the program on a blog. Please visit this link,, to read the blog entries. Posting about my experiences will be shared soon.