Monday, November 18, 2013

Helping the Philippines - A mom's way

In case you didn't know, I am half Filipino.  My mother is Filipino and my father Caucasian.  I was born and raised in the Philippines until the age of 9.  So I remember a lot of the way of life there.  Not an easy life but yet the people were still happy, kind, and smiling.  It's been very hard for me to see all those people on the news crying, dirty, and starving. A lot of them looking lost with no hope in their eyes.  I want to be there to help move debris, pass out water, or even just hold a hand to let them know we care and they will get through this.  But I'm just a simple mom of 4, going through a separation, trying to get on her own two feet.  What could I do?

I had to do something!  Anything!  Donating my clothes and my children's clothes just wasn't enough. I don't have much money, plus I was a little scared that the money would just end up in someone's pocket rather than to the people.  One thing I do have on my hands at the moment is time. So I came up with the idea of offering to take others donations in my community to a donation center. I consulted the 2 children I still have at home (ages 17 and 8) and they loved the idea and wanted to help.  Yay!

On Friday morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I ran to Shopper's Food Warehouse and asked the manager if he would graciously donate some paper bags (I still want to be eco-friendly) to pass out to homes asking for donations for the victims of the typhoon.  He said he didn't have too much bags but did give me a handful which turned out to be 40 bags.  Hmmm... 40 bags wasn't enough.  I need at least 100. I was really hoping for 200 but beggars can't be choosers (as my mom would always say).  I knew Aldi's has paper bags, and sturdy one's at that.  So I ran to Aldi's but their bags were for sale. I didn't think they would donate so I just bought 60 bags.  Now I have 100.  Time to write up the donation request letter.

After typing and printing the letter, I ran to Office Depot and bought copies - enough to place on 100 paper bags.  That night, my son's and I cut and stapled each bag to prepare them for the next day.


Saturday morning was a little drizzly but that wasn't going to stop us. We grabbed the bags and headed out.  We put bags on 101 homes. It became 101 because we had 1 extra flyer, so I grabbed a paper bag I had in my home.  Anyway, we tried leaving the bags where it would be seen immediately.  Most of the homes had screen doors, so we wedged it right in between the screen door.  They'll have to see that, we thought.  It didn't take us too long to hand out the bags.  Even though we did a 101 homes, it didn't seem like we even scratched the surface of the neighborhood. There were a lot of homes.  A lot of donations could come from them.  But 101 bags were all I had.  So not to get down, I looked at the positive that besides us helping the Philippines, we also had some nice family time, were able to get in some exercise, and get some fresh air ... or at least what could be considered fresh in Dundalk, MD.

Later that evening, I received a phone call from a lady who received a bag. She wasn't going to be home on Sunday and wanted to leave the items on her porch now but was scared someone would steal it.  So I ran out after talking to her and picked up the items. The bag was heavy! It was full of canned goods and boxes of food. I was so thrilled.  If no one else donates tomorrow, she made our efforts this day worth it for us.

Sunday morning rolls around and the boys and I are excited to see if any more donations will be made today.  After a quick breakfast, we stepped out of the house for the moment of truth.  We looked just past our house and immediately see 2 homes on our right have bags sitting on their porches.  The feeling that came to me when I saw those bags were the exact same feelings I remember getting as a child when I saw the Christmas presents that Santa had left me. If my heart could literally smile, that's what it was doing.  My kids were thrilled just as well, pointing and excitedly shouting to me, "Look!  There's one and there's another one!"  I jumped in the car with the 8 year old while my 17 year old walked to make sure we don't miss any houses. My 8 year old was so excited to see the bags on the porch and would rush me to stop so he could get the bags before his big brother could get it.

We drove through the path that we walked and all in all, we had 22 homes provide us with donations. Yay! My car was full. People gave clothes, shoes, new toothbrushes, soaps, canned goods, water, paper towels. It was amazing!  I was so happy.  My 8 year old, though, seemed a little puzzled that the other homes didn't give anything. I just told him that it's possible they already gave through money at a church or online.  He was pleased with that answer. I just hope my answer was true.

Now that the car was full, we headed over to Zambas Restaurant to drop off the donations.  Zambas is a new Filipino restaurant in Rosedale, MD who partnered up with Forex, a shipping company, to ship donations to the Philippines.  When we got there, the parking lot was full and there were tons of donations sitting along the sidewalk.  Forex was there gathering up as much as they can and putting it in their truck. It was a great sight to see. 

We found parking and started unloading when a man comes up to me asking if knew who's car was in the parking lot across the street. I told him I didn't know and he said, "Oh. I thought you were with them."  Just the way he said "them" didn't sound right but I let it go.  He then proceeded to tell me that he has football patrons coming for the game and he needs his parking lot, and that he's going to tow cars that shouldn't be there. Now, now ...  I love my Ravens but WOW! What a jerk! He obviously can see that people were not just at Zambas to eat but to donate things to help the Philippines.  This guy (who I am assuming is the owner) definitely is living up to his bar's name ...

So anyway, we unload all the items and head to the front to get some Soup for a Cause but they already ran out.  Boo! I told the boys we can just go inside and eat but they said they weren't hungry so we just went to Five Below and I bought them a couple of I'm proud of you and thank you gifts.  On our way home, my 17 year old tells me that before we went out to pick up the donations this morning, he wrote UNICEF to see if they can partner up with his high school to do something to help the Philippines.  Boy did my heart smile even bigger.  This is one proud mama!  Not only did I do something to help others with what I can, but I have inspired my teenage son to look beyond his "me" box and look out into the world and do something to help make it better.

I know the Philippines still has a long way to go and I hope what we have sent will help in some way. I also hope that, for those who are reading this, I have inspired you to do something or to do more.  There is so much we all could do, we just need to do it. If the roles were reversed, wouldn't you want someone to do something and to do more?  Would the excuse you are using now be enough for you if you were the one starving, thirsty, dirty, surrounded by broken homes and the smell of rotting corpses?  What excuse would be good enough for you to hear?  A little goes a long way, especially if everyone did a little something.  Just try it and see how your heart can feel like it's smiling.  It's a wonderful and peaceful feeling.
BTW ...those 22 homes that took their time to provide donations will be receiving a Thank You gift for me on or around Thanksgiving.  I'm a crafter so you know it will be something I made... I'm thinking maybe a ribbon angel ornament or a mini parol (a Filipino Christmas star).  Either way, I'm making them a little something to show them my appreciation.  I'll share it as soon as I finish. :-)