From natural disasters to Covid pandemic, the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) in the Philippines has been quietly yet consistently providing relief assistance to calamity survivors, including non-JW members, for 75 years now.
Although the JWs is known for its door-to-door ministry, it has been actively involved in relief work since 1946 by organizing Disaster Relief Committees (DRC) in different areas to provide practical help to those affected by typhoons, earthquakes and other disasters, said Leynard Rodulfa, spokesperson for JWs in the Philippines.
They also cooperate closely with local government units to carry out relief operations successfully.
Rodulfa said that during the national lockdown in 2020, JWs distributed relief goods, medical supplies and other essential items to those hardest hit by COVID while strictly observing safety measures.
In some areas, telemedicine has been arranged for members who have disabilities or those who fear to go to hospitals for non-emergency situations, he said.
“We also give the emotional and spiritual support that victims need during those difficult times,” he added.
Rebuilding homes after ‘Yolanda’
When super typhoon Yolanda battered the Visayas and left more than 6,000 people dead, the Governing Body of JWs allocated funds sent by fellow worshippers to repair or rebuild 167 homes in Tacloban City, 256 in Ormoc, 101 in Cebu City and 218 in Roxas City.
There were 522 local volunteers and 90 foreign volunteers who stayed for several months in the Visayas to complete the rebuilding work in 2015, said Rodulfa.
One of the beneficiaries was Charibel Baquero, 40, of Dulag, Leyte.
Eight years after she settled into her new home, Baquero recalled how local and foreign volunteers worked together to build her house as an expression of their love.
“I saw that love in action,” she said.
Baquero did not expect that in March 2014, four months after the powerful typhoon smashed her house, the DRC would hand her the house key. Her new house was furnished with electrical and water system, bathroom, two beds made of coco lumber, and some household items.
When the construction was completed after four weeks, Baquero’s curious neighbors asked: “where did you get the money?”
As Baquero toured her neighbors inside her new home, she told them that the construction materials were donations from her fellow believers around the world. The skilled workers, all JW members, offered their services for free.
To repay the kindness, Baquero cooked and washed the clothes of the volunteers. She and her family also received a regular supply of relief goods and essential items from JWs during the quarantine.
When a fire razed the house of Evelyn Segovia, of Davao City on Aug. 22, 2019, her fellow believers rushed to her aid.
Abandoned by her husband, 59-year-old Segovia supported her three children by sewing and selling rags. A few weeks after the fire, 20 to 40 volunteers showed up with their tools and materials to construct her house. It was completed after 13 days.
When the pandemic hurt her livelihood, Segovia received a regular supply of relief goods and financial assistance from her fellow believers. She also received Bible-based counsel through videoconferencing to help her cope with anxiety.
“The bond that I have with my spiritual family keeps me going,” she said.