Cheers to Monica Urrutia for this report on her recent International Solidarity activities in the Philippines …
Upon confirmation of my participation in the Women’s International Solidarity Affair in the Philippines (WISAP) from July 29 – August 5, 2007, organized by GABRIELA – the national alliance of women’s organizations in the country, the CULE Solidarity Committee and the CULE Executive felt this was an important opportunity to demonstrate Solidarity with women and workers in the Philippines and launched the CULE Solidarity Campaign with the Philippines in May 2007 to support SAMAKANA, (United Urban Poor Women), a nationwide federation women from urban poor communities struggling against the adverse consequences of national economic policies on women, focusing on poverty, inflation, homelessness, unemployment and the lack of social services for urban poor communities.
After a general call-out amongst the CULE membership, in less than two months we were able to gather donations (both monetary and in-kind) from CULE members and other PSAC staff, and the Filipino community and their supporters from across the country coordinated through the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC). This union-worker-community collaboration made the campaign a great success!
We collected $450 in cash and $625 in gift cards or direct purchases which helped to gather a lot of the medical and school supplies needed (photos below, click the thumbnails for a larger version). Receipts are on file.
In B.C., myself and Janet Routledge, who also attended the WISAP, brought two boxes.
Also, donations collected in the eastern part of the country at the time of departure filled five boxes, one which was brought by Joanne Vasquez, chair of the Philippine Women Centre of Quebec which is a member organization of NAPWC, and four which were shipped from Montreal and should arrive in the Philippines before summer’s end (see below for some photos).
While in the Philippines the three of us met with Nere M. Guerrero, Chairperson of SAMAKANA (see more photos below!). She received the boxes and the members are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the other boxes to come. In our meeting she warmly thanked everyone for their support and solidarity for the urban poor people, particularly its women and children. She also shared about SAMAKANA’s current work and campaigns and described the nation-wide conditions of urban poor people.
I have included a few pictures from Tacloban City, Leyte province, which is part of the Easter Visayas region in the Philippines where I stayed for in an urban poor area known as “Sea Wall”, just to give people an idea of some of the families we are helping. Most of the workers are labourers who work at the pier, or are vendors in the nearby market. Many of the children struggle with school because of the cost and some in the neighbourhood die of very preventable illnesses such as diarrhea, fever and the flu. They had just suffered from a neighbourhood-wide fire last September, but have since been able to reclaim their ‘spots’ along the seawall. I say ‘spots’ because they live in make-shift houses with no electricity. It was inspiring to see their community organizing to protect their homes from demolition and to improve the situation of the entire neighbourhood!
Janet was able to visit an urban poor community in Alabang in the NCR, and Joanne was able to visit one in Banago in the south. Going to different regions in the country gave us a better picture of the scope of the urban poor situation.
There are other boxes in the process of being filled and shipped so I am confident we will fulfill the allotment as passed and supported by the CULE Executive and its membership.
A heartfelt thanks again to all who supported the CULE campaign and the Filipino people!
Submitted in spirited solidarity, Monica Urrutia