From the Philippines – Dispatch 6

Following the devastating typhoon in the Philippines in November, ET staff member, Gregg Butensky, initiated a fundraising effort to bring assistance to the people of Aklan on the island of Panay. Gregg has strong connections in Aklan having established a public lending library there over 15 years ago.

Earlier this month Gregg travelled to the region to ensure that the $10,000 raised is used in the most effective way possible. He’s providing the following dispatches for his donors, republished here for ET readers.

Gomez Residence - Badio, Numancia
Gomez Residence – Badio, Numancia

“The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.” – Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

Construction of a new home for the Gomez family was to begin on Monday. Over the weekend, bamboo was delivered and GI sheets (corrugated metal roofing) followed. It was decided to use cement to anchor the four corners – and that proved to be a hold up. On Monday there was no cement to be had in all of Kalibo. “Out of stock.”

I visited the family that morning. They had marked off the footprint of the new house with cord and the bamboo lay piled in the hot sun. They were still awaiting arrival of one of the siblings who lives out of town – part of their workforce.

Tuesday night Rowena and Kim-Sin came to the house where I’m staying. They brought along Malou who had been my initial contact through Facebook and email. Malou had been out of town meeting with a big-time prospective donor since I had arrived and so this was our first meeting. Everyone hit it off with Mrs G and we had rousing discussion over 7up, Colt 45 and palutan (snacks).

Rowena mentioned that there had been long lines at the hardware store that afternoon creating a traffic mess in the adjacent intersection. Cement had become available, but in limited supply. I still don’t know if the Gomezes were able to get what they needed.

While I was able to withdraw enough cash from my own account for the portion of the fund earmarked for the Gomez family, there was a complication transferring the rest of the money.

Because I didn’t know who the money was going to before I left home, and because I didn’t want to carry so much cash, I decided to bring Travelers Cheques. Sure they’re quaint and old school but they seemed like the best way to go. I special ordered large denominations.

As it turns out, in an age of networked ATMs, Travelers Cheques are now worthless. Someone should tell AmEx.

One bank manager stared at a check for what seemed liked many minutes, speechless. She finally said she would check with the central office and that we should come back in the morning. When we did she kept us waiting for hours. The final verdict was that they could accept the checks for deposit but it would take 20-30 business days before the funds were made available. I was aghast.

It’s quicker for me to return home and wire the money so that’s what I’ll do.

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