Volunteerism and Partnership - The Story

In the heart of Marawi, amidst the early onset of the rainy season in April 2018, the Palawan Biodiversity Conservation Advocates Inc. (PBCAI) volunteers embarked on a mission that would challenge and expand their capabilities in humanitarian efforts. The PBCAI team was not just confronting the natural elements but also navigating the complex aftermath of a conflict that had deeply scarred the region. This story is not just about rebuilding structures, but rebuilding lives and communities through the power of volunteerism and partnership.

Early Challenges and Community Dynamics

As the PBCAI team arrived in Marawi, they were immediately met with logistical challenges due to the unpredictable weather. Planned construction activities were hindered as shelter materials could not be safely stored away from the relentless rain. This early obstacle underscored the difficulties of post-conflict recovery versus natural disaster response, with the former presenting unpredictable, ongoing security concerns that compound the usual logistical issues.

The atmosphere in Marawi was a blend of normalcy and underlying tension. While businesses appeared to be operating as usual, conversations with local entrepreneurs revealed a community on edge, worried about potential future attacks. This lingering fear among the locals was palpable, emphasizing the psychological and social hurdles that needed addressing alongside the physical reconstruction of the city.

Engagement and Empowerment

Throughout their mission, PBCAI volunteers were deeply involved in the Cash Assistance to Respond to Emergency needs of Marawi IDPs (CARE Marawi) Scale-up Project. This included supervising and monitoring the construction of shelters and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) provisions, such as latrines and shallow pumps. The volunteers also played a crucial role in supporting the distribution of livelihood inputs through a commodity voucher scheme, empowering local vendors and beneficiaries by facilitating the exchange process.

However, the approach to volunteer engagement required sensitivity and respect for local processes. PBCAI learned that their presence was sometimes perceived as intrusive, leading to a thoughtful recalibration of their involvement. They shifted towards a more supportive role, focusing on empowering the local partner MARADECA by training their staff rather than taking direct action. This approach not only built capacity but also fostered a stronger, more respectful partnership.

Data-Driven Impact and Community Insights

An integral part of the volunteers' work involved data management and analysis, particularly regarding the cash utilization and satisfaction survey (CUSa). This survey was critical in assessing the effectiveness of the financial assistance provided to the beneficiaries. PBCAI volunteers assisted in encoding survey responses and training MARADECA staff on data tabulation using Microsoft Excel, enhancing their ability to perform statistical analyses independently.

The data discussions revealed insightful trends about gender and age differences in decision-making among the IDPs, particularly regarding the utilization of cash assistance. These insights were valuable in tailoring future interventions to better meet the diverse needs of the community.

Lessons Learned and Moving Forward

The experience in Marawi was a profound learning opportunity for PBCAI volunteers. They recognized the importance of having a deep understanding of the local culture and the dynamics of the affected communities to be truly effective in their humanitarian efforts. The engagement highlighted the necessity of dialogue and training over direct intervention, which proved to be more empowering and sustainable.

The recommendations from this mission stressed the need for continued focus on data analysis post-survey and the adaptation of financial documentation processes to be more inclusive of local vendors who are also victims of conflict. This would facilitate quicker recovery and reintegration into the local economy.

In terms of attaining PBCAI’s intention of gaining experience on humanitarian response, short as it was, it solidifies the perspective that disaster responders should have a clear grasp of the situation one is responding to, to be able to serve effectively to the needs of the victims.

Activities Conducted

PBCAI engaged in Humanitarian Response works in Marawi thru Lutheran World Relief (LWR). In this engagement, LWR assigned PBCAI to work with their local partner named Maranao People Development Center (MARADECA). PBCAI assisted MARADECA in the preparation of a project proposal submitted to CSO-SEED British Council and EU joint undertaking entitled “Improving the quality of life of marginal coastal and lowland dwellers thru social enterprise enabling process for sustainable development”. The approval of this project proposal by the CSO-SEED British Council is one of the most significant contribution of PBCAI to MARADECA as it will impact positively on the long socio-economic wellbeing of the internally-displaced people in Marawi.

Support Activities for CARE Marawi Scale-up Project

PBCAI volunteers assisted in the negotiations with contractors for the Latrine and Hand Pump construction and also coordinated with the local partner (MARADECA) and LWR staff on the developments in the project site.
• Short visit to the sites where the IDPs are staying and building the temporary shelters and were able to talk with some of the beneficiaries and learn some of their stories.
• Assisted in the preparation of forms to be used for canvassing of commodities/livelihood inputs requested by the beneficiaries
• Assisted in the canvassing of potential vendors with MARADECA Staff for the Livelihood Support project.
• Assisted in the encoding of summary of canvass for final selection of vendors.
• Assisted MARADECA staff in encoding the responses to the CUS Cash Utilization and Satisfaction) survey.
• Conducted a one-on-one orientation training with MARADECA Staff on data tabulation using Microsoft Excel Program to come up with statistical analysis on the CUS survey.
• Conducted a one-on-one orientation training with MARADECA Staff on data tabulation using Microsoft Excel Program to come up with statistical analysis on the CUS survey.

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