When Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm ever to make landfall, struck the Philippines in November 2013, it wreaked havoc on the island nation and devastated communities along the country’s expansive coastline.
Destruction is widespread in the areas surrounding Tacloban, November 2013
Operation USA, having worked in the country since 1986, immediately sprang to action to aid relief efforts, providing water purification tablets for distribution in Tacloban within days of the storm. In the wake of a disaster like a typhoon, ensuring access to clean drinking water is an urgent priority, and OpUSA was fortunate to have purification supplies pre-staged in Manila for quick distribution to affected areas.
In the weeks following the massive typhoon, OpUSA called on the public for donations to relief efforts, and worked with long standing partners to secure funding for long-term recovery and redevelopment projects. With an impressive outpouring of support from individuals, corporations and partners (both old and new), donations of funds to aid in recovery quickly added up, totaling over $530,000. Many in-kind donations were also taken in.
In November 2013, OpUSA President and CEO, Richard Walden, traveled to the Philippines to survey the damage firsthand. Following that initial assessment, OpUSA program staff visited the area to meet with impacted communities and start the process of identifying top priority recovery projects. As an outgrowth of those meetings, it was decided that the small coastal municipality of Guiuan, where the monster storm first made landfall, would become the focus of Operation USA’s relief efforts.
OpUSA intern Kira and local community members pack up donated supplies for distribution to mother and child groups
To date, we have sent sea shipments of much needed relief and recovery supplies to the area. Now, as the emergency phase is waning, OpUSA, in grateful partnership with the Honeywell corporation, is embarking on a multi-phase rebuilding project that will include a public school and a playground.
Additional partners have also joined the effort to outfit the school, including We-Care.com, donating over $10,000 from shoppers who utilized the platform in February 2014, and Filipino-American dancer Stella Abrera, coordinating her own fundraising effort on the crowd-funding platform Crowdrise.
Alongside these efforts, OpUSA continues to seek funding for playground equipment, computers, sports equipment and other school supplies for the estimated 250 children who will attend the school.
The site of the damaged Ngolos school, which OpUSA will help to rebuild
This month, OpUSA staff members will return to Guiuan to assess ongoing efforts and reiterate Operation USA’s commitment to the community. Stay tuned for further updates!
Click HERE to donate in support of typhoon recovery now.
the world’s major carbon dioxide-emitting nations can slash those emissions by mid-century. Called the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, the initiative aims to provide leaders with a plan of action in advance of a UN summit in September and climate negotiations in Paris in late 2015. Yale Environment 360 asked Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a key player in the decarbonization project, five questions about the initiative and the prospects for global action on the climate front.
Thirty-five years ago today, on July 12, 1979, Operation USA, then known as “Operation California,” launched its first-ever relief effort–aiding 44,000 Vietnamese “Boat People” refugees suffering on Pulau Bidong (a waterless and treeless rock island) in the South China Sea off the coast of Malaysia.
Richard Walden visits with Cambodian refugees in Thailand, 1982.
Only 29 days earlier a friend and I had dreamed up the idea for a relief airlift while sitting on the beach in Venice, California. We never dreamed that what was to be a one-time effort would continue on to a second flight carrying supplies to Cambodian and Lao refugees in camps in Thailand, and then a relief flight directly into genocide and famine-ravaged Cambodia, which had been cut off from the world for more than three years under Khmer Rouge rule. As 1979 turned into 1980 we sent aid to Somalia, and a year later to Central America, followed by the delivery of aid to victims of civil unrest in Poland and Lebanon in 1982… and so it has gone.
Now, 35 years later–having sent disaster aid and/or having created development projects in 100 countries–I look back in wonder, and with profound gratitude to all those who have taken part in this adventure.
Richard Walden with founding board member Julie Andrews, 1983.
From the construction of schools in China to the delivery of medical supplies and equipment in Africa to long-term disaster recovery in Haiti and the United States, Operation USA has successfully developed programs around the world. We continue to offer material and financial assistance to community-based organizations that promote sustainable development, leadership and capacity building, income generating activities, education, health services, and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable people–with more programs being developed with each passing year.
Still, there is far more to be done by our organization (which I’m proud to say is 100% privately-funded)–and by the larger and growing nongovernmental and governmental sectors–but I rejoice at the challenges we face and the possibility to attract new and “fresh eyes” to our work in the months and years ahead.
Richard Walden visits school children in China, 2014.
We truly are “the little ship that gets in the harbor where the big ships cannot go” (so says Julie Andrews, a founding board member), and I could not be more proud of how far Operation USA has come since that first relief flight 35 years ago today. I look forward to all we are able to accomplish–with your continued support–in the future.
To learn more about Operation USA’s full history, click here.
To make a donation in support of our work, click here.