“The call for help usually comes within a few minutes whenever a disaster strikes the more remote (and sometimes, conflict-ravaged “no man’s  land”) areas that are far from the sophisticated urban centers in the Philippines”



Children of Haiyan

Children of Haiyan

This time, after not quite catching one’s breath from the regional turf battles over which country rightfully owned Sabah, wondering about the geopolitics of the People’s Republic of China imposing its once-royal territorial rights in neighboring countries, questioning the controversial politically-motivated and religious-flavored burning of Zamboanga, a city in Southern Philippines, a pivotal trading port-of-call, and barely coping with a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Cebu and Bohol — One World Institute (OWI), a private health and education foundation, once again, mobilized its volunteers and allies into action in hard-to-reach places.


The first 72 hours were critical. A super typhoon locally named as “Yolanda,” internationally known as “Typhoon Haiyan,” had just bulldozed its way through the central part of the Philippines, from Samar and Leyte all the way to Palawan. Dr. Tom Stern, OWI’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, described the killer storm in his short story, “Typhoon.”

“Like a Kansas tornado, its central snout of low pressure raised and lowered like a merry-go-round horse; but unlike a tornado, whose funnel may be a few hundred yards wide, when Yolanda touched her funnel to earth it measured forty miles across.”

Users of mobile phones relayed texts to Facebook and Twitter friends with updates about disaster relief efforts in all the affected places.

This was a typical scene: In Los Angeles, a network of friends used Facebook, through its internal messaging system, to coordinate  donations and news. OWI was immediately plugged into the conversations by one of its volunteers, listening to real-time needs.

Yolanda Ortega Stern, Ph.D. , respectfully addressed as “Manang Yo,” is the President of this Northern California-based 501 (c) (3) non -profit, public benefit corporation which is also a charity organization with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission. Together  with her husband, Dr. Tom Stern, M.D., and their son, Monte, and its volunteers, their focus on providing free wheelchairs and free  educational programs to in-conflict areas within the Philippines and Cambodia has resonated loudly in the international scene. One World Institute has given over 50 million US dollars of goods and services to charity.

While social-savvy citizens worked quickly to provide basic needs to displaced residents, some of “Manang Yo’s” RELIEF 101 lessons came in handy.

An OWI volunteer advised the Los Angeles group within the internal Facebook chat:

First, although the pricing might not be current and is about 15% discounted from wholesale prices, determine your resources and budget for your Relief Mission at http://owicommunity.tumblr.com/. Then, organize!

  1. Get all families’ names on a list, per household. Get the names of your mayor and barangay captain.
  2. Prepare coupons for each family for the disaster relief vehicles.
  3. Send the list to the non-profit organization you have contacted to handle the disaster relief operations.
  4. The mob mentality is possible during times of desperate need. Provide security preparations. When help arrives, the families with  oupons will get their survivor goods.
  5. Hoarding happens! Be aggressive and make sure the donations are taken out of the warehouses immediately

“Manang Yo” was busy coordinating with several OWI partners, including the Cebu-based IPI Foundation, Asia America Initiative, Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), and Direct Relief on behalf of its call to action: OPERATION SAVE LIVES. Several pallets of  medicines allocated for Olongapo, Zamboanga and other parts of Mindanao, as well as Bohol, would arrive just in time to help provide immediate relief for the typhoon victims. During the first week of OWI’s disaster relief efforts, Dr. Stern sent an appeal worldwide.

“Your donations at this time will go toward food and water because we are trying to prevent starvation, thirst and death from both. In a few days, there will be an outbreak of cholera. In 21-30 days, there will be an outbreak of leptospirosis. Dengue may be imminent. Then children and the old will begin to dehydrate from diarrhea due to unsanitary conditions and E. Coli and other bacterial contamination. Many will die — as what is happening in the other shelters.”

A 24/7/365 OPERATION

Philanthropy for peaceWhenever a disaster strikes anywhere in the Philippines, especially the yearly devastating typhoons, One World Institute prepares for these forces of nature a year or more in advance as the volunteers painstakingly plan its precise military-like mobilization strategies and tactics.

Dr. Yolanda Stern writes OWI’s continuing call for action in its Facebook page:

“Disaster Relief is a Community Operation. Why wait until disaster strikes? Help us pre-position Relief Goods near the vulnerable areas and save thousands in shipping costs. Relief goods are purchased at cost, wholesale, or big discounts when acquired in bulk. We are now collecting ready-to-eat canned or packaged foods, pain relievers, skin creams, bottled water, laundered clothing sets marked S, M, L (Small, Medium, or Large) for children and adults, and baby formula. For dropoff locations in the Philippines contact us at: www.theoneworldinstitute.org.”


OWI’s Philanthropy for Peace programs, projects, and activities offer the “poorest of the poor” real opportunities for economic  empowerment through sustainable enterprises.

One of OWI’s environmental protection projects, “Pearls for Peace,” has made a fisherman, Basil Anik, into an artisan jewelry maker,  having created brooches by following instructions from a “do it yourself” book. Donations of these traditional brooches that are made of .999 Silver from Tongkil Island and Sulu Mother of Pearl subsidize the pocket money for Basil’s young apprentices who assist in polishing and shining the one-of a-kind finished products which depict the fruits and flowers of Sulu Archipelago in Southern Philippines.

The proceeds from “Manang Yo’s” definitive guide to natural pearls in the global marketplace, “Sex and the Wild Pearl,” go toward OWI’s Philanthropy for Peace projects.

Yolanda Stern gladly provides a slideshow about OWI’s Philanthropy for Peace programs at www.theoneworldinstitute.org/pfp_2011.pdf. She says, “It will give you an idea of the cost of things. The factory cost of one 40-foot container with 550 wheelchairs is $36,000.00 based on the factory cost of wheelchairs. Brokerage fees in Manila are about $5,000.”

She continues: “In 2014, OWI will be adding virgin coconut oil (VCO) hubs as additional livelihood for the OWI community. We do not fund individual charities or individuals because our projects must remain compatible with our partners’ objectives to help improve lives in  conflict zones, regardless of color, religion, or class.”

For US residents, donations are welcome through PayPal at www.TheOneWorldInstitute.org


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