Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Typhoon's Deadly Toll: How You Can Go From Feeling Helpless to Helpful In This One Simple Step

Aida, our former housekeeper, was born in the Philippines. Her sisters and brothers are directly affected by the super-typhoon that hit Tacloban.

The deadly storm, Typhoon Haiyan followed hot on the heels of a 7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol on October 15 and has further devastated the towns and villages of Aida's family and friends.

World catastrophes can make us feel very helpless in the face of such enormous devastation and tumult.
 And what is going on in the Philippines right now, is a prime example of the perfect storm that has destroyed whole areas and taken with it, peoples' lives, homes, belongings and basic essentials such as clean water and electricity.

We have texted daily to check in with Aida. She came to visit  yesterday for hugs and tea.

We gave her time and space to tell her family's story and that of their neighbors and friends.

She explained how the earthquake had already left so many people vulnerable, that the typhoon was a second blow to a beleaguered  country.

We talked together with Aida, about ways we can support her as she supports her family. We discussed how best to give support to the victims and decided to give Aida a check to send to her family directly, to use and disperse to people they know in their vicinity.

This strategy can and should apply in other situations. 

Even if we, in countries far from the Philippines, want to help, it is hard to know what to do in these circumstances and  to know what will be most useful. 

We watch the endless news reels of lives in ruins and wonder how we can make a difference and bring comfort to any one person of the millions in need.

We often find ourselves listening to a heart wrenching story second hand, from people who are close up to a crisis.

A friend tells you about a neighbor who had a devastating house fire

A colleague talks about the many miscarriages her daughter has had.

A neighbor tells you about her friend's imminent loss of a young spouse.

We cannot help the people directly affected, personally. We do not know them. And these situations can leave us feeling helpless and overwhelmed.

But there IS something very important we can do. 

We can  support the person who has told us the story. 

These two degrees of separation mean that although we are not in the front lines of support we can support and bring comfort to those who are.

When you ask someone, "What can I do to help?" And they don't have an answer, that doesn't have to be the end of the conversation.

 Your next question can be,

" How can I support you?"

"What will bring you comfort so that you have the strength to support your friend/neighbor/colleague?"

By bringing comfort in this way you have gone from feeling helpless to helpful in one simple step.

By asking these questions, listening to their story and expressing your concern for them, you have already made a difference. 

If you do want to send money to the Philippines, here are many ways  You Can Help Survivors of Typhoon-Haiyan .

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this kind of support? In what situations have you given it? What has brought you comfort as you have helped others through a crisis? 

Leave me a comment below.

I'm here to support you as you support others. Let me know how I can help you.

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  1. You know what I have difficulty reconciling Gilly, here am I in the uk surfing the Internet for new bathroom fittings and choosing paint colours and those poor poor people are without everything.Everything. It is unimaginable. I just hope the money we give is received by the people who need it. But we must have faith mustn't we. Jo .

  2. Thank goodness you do have the opportunity to surf the net etc. Jo. You've certainly had more than your share of stuff to deal with.
    Giving money is the best ( only) thing to do at the moment. The argument in SLATE is very compelling- not to try to collect or send anything else right now.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2013/11/how_to_help_typhoon_haiyan_survivors_in_the_philippines_the_only_donation.html I was glad to give the money directly to Aida, because I trust her family will use it for whatever is most important. Giving through reliable agencies should be a trustworthy way to donate.

    But even with donations, the helpless feeling can prevail and that is why, I think supporting those who are in the front lines of a crisis is a helpful way to ease those feelings. Caregivers, friends, neighbors and colleagues who are supporting people close to them, also need people to lean on and that is where we can be very helpful. If we can't help people directly in the Philippines, let's help people closer to home and hope the ripple of kindness spreads, until it reaches them.
    Thanks for commenting Jo.

  3. This post makes a huge difference, Gilly. People don't always know what to ask for but sometimes what they most need and want is love and support to know that when they know what they do need, you're there. We made a donation but you're right, we still feel the separation and are crossing our fingers that our donation will go where it can make the most difference.

  4. Thank you Alli. I agree. People want to be heard and to be loved. Everything else comes from that. When we can't reach out and touch those directly affected, we have to place trust in those that can and support those closer to us.I am finding it hard to get my head around the magnitude of devastation and chaos.I try to remind myself that humans are resilient.......and small kindnesses make a big difference.
    Thank you for taking the time to comment.