Written By January Gapasin, Volunteer Writer, Operation Blessing Philippines
With the help of Operation Blessing Philippines and her artist daughter Hannah, Norma Liongoren took relief efforts to the next level by making it healthy and environment-friendly.
A wearer of many of life’s hats, Norma is an environmentalist, an art gallery owner, a fundraiser for art and humanitarian causes, an advocate of Filipino products, and an Operation Blessing partner for many years. She sought the help of her daughter and friends to give Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Guiuan, Samar a special kind of relief pack, which would include goods and items from environmentally sustainable sources.
Called “Dignity Packs”, these relief items are recyclable (which means less waste and garbage) and durable enough to help the survivors prepare for the next disaster, if need be.
Norma and her friends donated to Operation Blessing a hundred malong-wrapped Dignity Packs filled with healthy and sustainable goodies for the Guiuan typhoon survivors. Each pack contained food (dried fish, bagoong or shrimp paste, monggo, dried fruit, peanut butter, and banana chips), clothing (malong, clean clothes), footwear (rain boots, slippers, and rubber shoes), herbal medicine (Lagundi syrup, vitamin C, virgin coconut oil, and malunggay capsules), tools and technology (matches, solar powered cellphone chargers, water purification materials), and even children’s books.
“I don’t like to give noodles, but something nutritious… and we wrapped it in malong so it could also be used as a blanket. I’m an advocate of things that are Filipino-made, too,” Norma said, as she shared a deep and personal connection with heritage and history.
When asked what inspired her to come up with the idea of those Dignity Packs, she remarked that she is an environmentalist at heart, and she wanted to share something beyond the physical needs of an individual. She appreciates what Operation Blessing does, that is, more than distributing relief goods and organizing medical missions, the organization also includes trauma counseling when it engages disaster-stricken communities. Norma added that people should also be made aware of environmental issues, like global warming.
“Just as we are so into the gospel, we have to include the social aspect.We have to look into how we do things.
Stewardship of the environment is important. Let’s be aware of our carbon footprint. I believe God has a purpose why He let these things happen,” she remarked.
It would have been easier for Norma to simply donate the dignity packs, but she went with Operation Blessing to the municipality of Lawaan, one of the remote towns in Eastern Samar.. Once there, she also gave a small talk on the effects and prevention of climate change. The Typhoon Yolanda survivors received more than a bag of relief goods that day, but new learnings and counseling as well. Hopefully, Norma inspired change in that little community through her partnership with Operation Blessing.