Things I Learned from the Yolanda Fund Drive

I wrote this on Nov. 14, 2013, a few days after super typhoon Yolanda hit the country. That period has been one of the most stressful days of my life. It hit me on so many levels. 

I felt so much pain for those who were affected. I was relieved I wasn’t one of them. I felt scared for families who don’t have food to eat, or houses to go back to. 

I was shocked to see so many deaths. I was overwhelmed with the generosity of people to share what little they have. I was frustrated with the slow response of different government agencies. I was exasperated with the blaming and shaming. I was pressured to take care of the money entrusted us.

Doon ko naramdaman yung giving until it hurts.

So many emotions, so little time. Anyhoo…


I spent the entire Yolanda weekend at home, watching the news. The news coverage was disturbing because for at least 24 hours, there was no update. The last time this happened was in 2009 when Ondoy struck.

My friend Blanche chatted with me on Facebook, saying that we should start a fund drive to help those affected. So we both posted status updates regarding our little project, including one FB group that we are both members of.

In just 24 hours, we managed to raise P25,000 in donations. Some 90% of the donations came from that FB group (You ladies rock!). And as the days rolled by, more money came in. In five days, the donated amount reached P100,000 so Blanche and I “imposed” a cut-off just to make sure that we purchase what needs to be purchased, send the goods to the right groups, audit all the money and receipts, and submit a report to those who donated.

By the end of our fund drive, we have collected P168,941.05. Majority of the money was spent to purchase medicines while the rest was given in cash. A full report was sent to all the donors.

What has this experience taught me? Here are some of the lessons I learned from our Yolanda Fund Drive:

1. Never underestimate the kindness of people.

I didn’t expect to receive such a huge amount, especially from people who I never met personally and who I only communicated with via email or on Facebook. The same people shared our call to their own friends and their friends sent in their donations, as well.

The kindness of people extended also to those who helped me make things happen, from my colleagues to two company executives and the company I work for.

2. Follow your own moral compass.

Reading my Facebook feed was stressful. People share contradicting stories and messages. I saw a lot of guidelines and do’s and don’ts. I read status updates of bashers, haters, ranters, and ravers. If you consume everything you read online, you will go nuts. Just follow your own moral compass and do what you think is right. The rest is noise.

3. To each his own.

If you believe that sharing critical posts about the government is the right thing to do, go ahead. If you strongly feel that it’s still okay to post selfies and food photos, do it. If you think that it’s appropriate to tweet the items that you donated, by all means, post it. And if you don’t want to post or tweet at all, then that’s fine, too. If people have a problem with your posts, they are free to un-friend or un-follow you. What they think of you is none of your business (unless you’re a troll).

Sabi nga, walang basagan ng trip.

4. Don’t believe everything you read.

Tragedy heightens everyone’s emotions and they are moved to share any information that they think are important. These can be eyewitness accounts of friends of friends of friends, speculations and musings, articles related to the tragedy, and everything else under the sun. 

Don’t be too quick to hit the “Share” button. Be critical of what you read and verify facts first. The worst news I’ve read is that Martial Law has been imposed in Leyte. I had to check the Twitter feeds of Rappler and other news agencies to see whether it is true (it’s not). Sharing wrong information can cause panic and worry. Please be responsible.

5. Be grateful.

I am grateful for the help extended by friends and their friends. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers. I am grateful that they trusted me with their hard-earned money. Thank you to the private sector for stepping up and doing their fair share in the Yolanda relief efforts. Thank you to the government for doing their fair share. Thank you to the international community for doing their fair share.

No amount is too big or too small. Whatever help you extended to Yolanda victims—whether you helped repacked items or donated money/goods, etc.—pat yourself on the back. And if you can stretch yourself a little further and give a little more, then by all means, do so.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. But I’d like to believe that every one of us would come out as better people because of what we’ve seen, learned, and experienced. And if you don’t believe what I’m saying, well, to each his own, too.